Coverage: Uber fires 20 after internal investigation into harassment
Ride sharing company Uber Technologies Inc. fired more than 20 people after a company-wide investigation into harassment claims.
Eric Newcomer of Bloomberg News had the news:
Law firm Perkins Coie LLP led the investigation, reviewing 215 human-resources claims; while it took no action in 100 instances, it’s still probing 57 others. There’s also a separate investigation commissioned by Uber that’s being led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. That group shared detailed findings with a subcommittee of Uber’s board of directors, but a summary isn’t expected to be made public until next week, a person familiar with the matter said. Uber also plans to take action on some of the report’s findings next week, the person said.
“They’re showing that they’re going to take some concrete steps to address the matter,” said Evan Rawley, a professor at Columbia University’s business school. “This issue is going to keep being at the forefront until the investigation is completed.”
Uber is awash in investigations after former engineering employee Susan Fowler published a blog post alleging that she was sexually harassed and that the case was mishandled by human resources and senior management. Uber’s woes don’t end there. It’s also suffered a flurry of departures by senior executives, including heads of finance, growth, engineering and policy and communications. Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick — who himself has made a series of public relations blunders, including being caught on video arguing with an Uber driver — has conceded he needs leadership help and hired a search firm to find a chief operating officer.
Mike Isaac of The New York Times reported that the terminations were disclosed at a staff meeting:
Uber disclosed the terminations at a staff meeting at its San Francisco headquarters, according to an employee who attended the event but was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. The firings, which occurred in the last few months, stem from an internal investigation into Uber’s workplace, the employee said. The company did not name the people who were fired, but some were senior executives, the employee said.
The firings were aimed at tackling what many at Uber say are deep-seated management and cultural issues, which have made the company a cautionary tale for what can go wrong with Silicon Valley’s often freewheeling corporate culture. Uber has been a lightning rod because of its aggressive chief executive, Travis Kalanick, who has flouted rules and regulations to turn the company into a nearly $70 billion behemoth. Uber’s difficulties have revived questions about how the tech industry treats women and employees in general — and whether start-ups can recover from such stumbles.
“You only terminate 20 people after you’ve determined after an investigation that there is something very, very wrong at the company,” said Deborah Weinstein, the president of the Weinstein Firm, which deals with employment and workplace law issues. “Most places don’t have this level of things going wrong.”
Tracey Lien of the Los Angeles Times reported that the investigation received 215 complaints, and the company took 100 actions:
At a meeting for all Uber employees Tuesday, Perkins Coie said it received 215 complaints and took action in 100 instances, the person said. Some complaints are still under investigation.
Employees were told that those fired were terminated for a range of reasons, including sexual harassment, bullying, retaliation and discrimination. Perkins Coie did not reveal the names of those who were fired, the source said. Uber did not respond to a request for comment.
The terminations come at a critical time for Uber as it attempts to put behind it recent high-profile executive departures, allegations of a sexist and toxic work culture, and a once-praised reputation for being a bullish rule-breaker that has since become a liability.
The firings announced Tuesday were the first concrete steps by the company — which has more than 12,000 employees, hundreds of thousands of contract drivers across the U.S. and a private valuation hovering around $70 billion — to correct its course, according to business experts.
The number of employees fired en masse for poor behavior is “unprecedented,” particularly given the seriousness of the claims, said Jason Schloetzer, a professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business who specializes in corporate governance. And it means that more people will be paying attention to Holder’s report about Uber’s workplace culture, parts of which are expected to be made public next Tuesday.