Travis Kalanick, CEO, Uber, has ordered an ‘urgent investigation’ at the organisation, after allegations of harassment and gender bias were levelled by a former employee.
Susan Fowler, in her blog, recounted sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender during her tenure with Uber, which started in November 2015. Although the allegations and claims remain unconfirmed as of yet, they include examples of managers and HR personnel acting and reacting inappropriately.
Fowler alleges that her manager discussed his open relationship, and his habit of getting in trouble at work, “because he was looking for women to have sex with”, over the company chat. On notifying the HR, Fowler says that she was told about the stellar performance of the said manager, and that “they wouldn't feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.” She further says that the manager threatened to fire her over this incident, using the at-will employment law in California, and claimed that he wouldn’t be doing anything illegal in doing so. On reporting this threat to the HR and CTO, they admitted that this was illegal, but no action was taken, Susan says.
Furthermore, Susan describes an incident when leather jackets were ordered for the whole team barring the women, since the number of leather jackets being ordered for women were not enough – due to their numbers in the organisation – to justify placing an order. She says a director had said, “that because there were so many men in the org, they had gotten a significant discount on the men's jackets but not on the women's jackets, and it wouldn't be equal or fair, he argued, to give the women leather jackets that cost a little more than the men's jackets.”
The allegations evoked sharp responses from several individuals, and gained attention quickly. Travis Kalanick issued a comment and also tweeted about it:
"I have just read Susan Fowler's blog. What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in. It's the first time this has come to my attention so I have instructed Liane Hornsey our new Chief Human Resources Officer to conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations. We seek to make Uber a just workplace and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber — and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired."
Uber board member Arianna Huffington also took notice and tweeted about the independent investigation regarding the incident.
The incident has drawn sharp criticism for the organisation that is already infamous for its sexist and misogynist ideology and work culture.