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Another scandal

Uber announces investigation after former employee makes sexual harassment claim

By WITW Staff on February 21, 2017

The ride-hailing app Uber has appointed former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate sexual harassment claims recently made by a former employee, the company’s latest in a string of controversies and scandals in recent years.

In a blog post titled “Reflecting on One Very, Very Strange Year at Uber,” Susan Fowler described a culture of impunity around harassment and discrimination at the company. Her own experience of being targeted inappropriately by her manager was, she later found out, not uncommon and neither was the lack of action taken by human resources when she lodged a complaint. Fowler left her job as a site reliability engineer at Uber in December.

“It was clear that [the manager] was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR … Upper management told me that he ‘was a high performer’ (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part,” Fowler wrote.

Alongside Tammy Albarran, his partner at the law firm Covington & Burling, Holder will not only investigate Fowler’s allegations, but will also look into broader questions regarding diversity and inclusion, according to a memo written by the company’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, Reuters reports. Holder, who served under former President Barack Obama, was hired last year by Airbnb to help devise a policy strategy to tackle the discrimination happening through its online renting service’s platform.

Holder will be aided in his investigation by Arianna Huffington, who joined Uber’s board last year, Liane Hornsey, Uber’s chief human resources officer, and Angela Padilla, the company’s associate general counsel.

Fowler’s allegations have prompted calls for customers to once again boycott the Uber app. The #DeleteUber movement was initiated last month in response to the company’s perceived attempt to cash in on the taxi strike held in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration ban. While the New York Taxi Workers Alliance held a one-hour strike to and from JFK airport in solidarity with the refugees affected by the ban, Uber dropped its surge-charges for rides from the airport.

Read the story at Reuters.


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