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By Eric Lieberman
The CEO of Uber, the ride-sharing tech conglomerate, told employees Monday that he hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an investigation into sexual harassment claims levied by a former female employee.
Susan J. Fowler, who worked as an Uber engineer for roughly a year, wrote an incredibly creepy account of a manager’s salacious behavior and the subsequent unfair treatment after reporting the alleged misconduct.
Other people who are also helping to review the situation are Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of the eponymous media outlet Huffington Post, Liane Hornsey, Uber’s chief human resources officer, and Angela Padilla, the company’s associate general counsel, according to Reuters. Huffington joined Uber’s board of directors last year.
Company founder Travis Kalanick sent a memo out to Uber employees Monday detailing the steps he is taking to address the allegations made by Fowler.
“It’s been a tough 24 hours. I know the company is hurting, and understand everyone has been waiting for more information on where things stand and what actions we are going to take,” Kalanick wrote, according to Mike Isaac of The New York Times. “Arianna and Liane will also be doing smaller group and one-one-one listening sessions to get your feedback directly.”
Kalanick does not specifically bring up the sexual harassment allegations. He says Holder and his associate Tammy Albarran, both partners at the law firm Covington & Burling, “will conduct an independent review into the specific issues relating to the work place environment raised by Susan Fowler, as well as diversity and inclusion at Uber more broadly.” (RELATED: There’s A Quantifiable Reason Why Uber’s CEO Quit Trump’s Econ Team)
Kalanick then goes on to cite statistics pertaining to female shares of the workforce in engineering, product management, and scientist roles for not only Uber, but other tech companies. He claims that Twitter, Facebook and Google, report female workforces of 10 percent, 17 percent and 18 percent respectively, while his own company reports 15.1 percent and that “this has not changed substantively in the last year.”
“When I joined Uber, the organization I was part of was over 25% women. By the time I was trying to transfer to another eng[ineer] organization, this number had dropped down to less than 6%,” and then 3 percent on the final day of work, Fowler writes. (RELATED: Uber Forced To Pay Advocacy Group $2.38 Million For Not Picking Up Blind People)
Several tech companies have been adamantly trying to diversify their workforce, but are failing to meet their own standards. Quotas for female and minority hires (sometimes excluding Asian men) were set higher than what the companies ultimately reached.
“I believe in creating a workplace where a deep sense of justice underpins everything we do. Every Uber employee should be proud of the culture we have and what we will build together over time,” Kalanick continued in his memo, according to Reuters. “What is driving me through all this is a determination that we take what’s happened as an opportunity to heal wounds of the past and set a new standard for justice in the workplace.”
Holder was hired last year by Airbnb, an online network for lodging, to assist in formulating a policy to combat, what the company saw, as discrimination within its platform.
A former employee has accused Uber of disturbing behavior before, filing a lawsuit against the company in October, alleging the company tracks “high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-spouses.” (RELATED: Uber Is Tracking Your Location Even After The Ride Is Over)
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