Travis Kalanick, CEO of ride-share app company Uber, is responding after a former employee posted an eye-opening blog entry about her experience working for the company. Susan Fowler described her year at Uber as “very, very strange,” detailing some of the sexual harassment and discrimination she faced while working as an engineer.
On her first day with her team, Fowler wrote, her boss sent her messages about how he was in an open relationship and was having trouble finding sexual partners. “It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him,” she said, “and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR.” Unfortunately, Fowler claims, HR said they didn’t want to do anything more than give the man a warning because it was his first offense and he “was a high performer.” They also told her that she could either switch teams, or stay where she was and risk getting a negative review from him. HR erroneously insisted that the potential negative review wouldn’t be considered retaliation because she was warned in advance.
Later that year, Fowler claims, she spoke to a number of other women at Uber who had similar experiences with the same manager, and had reported him, so clearly his comments to her were not his “first offense.”
In addition to sexual harassment, Fowler discussed discrimination against women, such as when the company bought leather jackets for more than a hundred male employees, but not for the six women on her team.
Fowler noted that when she first joined Uber, her group was more than 25 percent women. When she was still working there, that number had already dropped down to less than six percent, she said.
The same day that Fowler published her blog post, Kalanick responded. In a statement to The Huffington Post, the Uber CEO said:
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 FOR EVERYONE 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.