Ex-Uber Employee Accuses Company of Rampant Sexism

Posted February 23, 2017 by Mary McGinley

It seems Uber is once again in the hot seat over its policies, especially in how it treats its drivers and in its response to President Trump’s travel ban last month. The most recent setback involves former Uber software engineer, Susan Fowler, and has gotten even more people crying out for users to “Delete Uber”.  

According to an article that appeared at QZ.com, Fowler published to her personal blog on Sunday, February 19th a recounting of her time at the company.  Fowler’s picture of rampant sexual harassment, which began on her first day involving a manager, was reported and systematically ignored by Uber’s human resource department.

Even armed with screenshots of the manager’s text messages that were sent with the intent to get Fowler to have sex with him, HR refused to take action against him.  She later learned that hers was not an isolated incident and that other employees had also reported the same type of behavior from the same manager on several occasions.

Fowler also alleges that the work environment is inherently hostile toward women.  One example involves an incident where all of the members of the software engineering teams were promised leather jackets.  When the jackets arrived, it was discovered that Fowler and five other female coworkers in the department did not receive leather jackets because there was not a discount for women’s jackets as there was for men’s jackets. When a director at Uber was queried how come 120 men could get jackets and 6 women didn’t, the director replied that if the women truly wanted equality, they should realize that was what they were getting instead of leather jackets.

Within Uber, it was clear to Fowler that the backstabbing and infighting among peers and managers was such that there was a constant fear among employees that another re-org was just around the corner.  This level of chaos and disorder, according to Fowler, was a constant.

The blog entry has sent shockwaves throughout Silicon Valley, and even Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick took note. In a series of Tweets, he called the allegations “abhorrent” and ordered Uber’s chief of HR to launch an investigation. While there are some that may try to write off Fowler’s blog post of complaints as an isolated incident, many comments that have been made within the online forums of Hacker News confirm Fowler’s allegations.  Some commenters have alleged that they know of female colleagues who will have absolutely nothing to do with Uber because of their culture of misogyny. Others are calling on the CEO to concentrate on cracking down on the toxicity of the work environment of the company, but fear that little or nothing will be done.

An article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday announced that former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has been hired by Uber to head up an investigation into the allegations.

One of the jobs of a HR professional is to ensure a safe work environment for everyone.  It should go without saying that no one should ever have to put up with a toxic work environment or have to endure sexual harassment on the job.  Women and minorities often face discrimination in the workplace both in subtle and more overt ways.  Such harassment and discrimination can be addressed in a number of ways including training and putting policies in place to address such issues.  Management and HR staff can do much to put these policies in place and make sure that everyone is aware of them.

Companies and organizations that fail to take these precautions, like Uber, may find themselves in a great deal of legal trouble. At EinsteinHR we have over 50 years of combined experience to help small to mid-sized companies with all of their HR needs. Whether you are recruiting to fill open positions or looking for training for your workers. EinsteinHR can help find the right answer for you. We are committed to the needs and the success of our clients and we will be there for you in all aspects of human resource management.  Contact us today at 888-981-3622 (emc2) to find out how we can help.