Former engineer alleges sexual harassment and institutional indifference at Uber | tech$news | Hindustan Times
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Former engineer alleges sexual harassment and institutional indifference at Uber

In a shocking blog post , a former site reliability engineer at Uber’s San Francisco office has recounted her horrifying story of institutional indifference to sexual harassment.

tech Updated: Feb 20, 2017 12:09 IST
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick took to Twitter to promise an “urgent investigation” into the shocking claims.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick took to Twitter to promise an “urgent investigation” into the shocking claims. (REUTERS File Photo)

In a shocking blog post , a former site reliability engineer at Uber’s San Francisco office has recounted her horrifying story of institutional indifference to sexual harassment. She wrote that even on her first day on the team, her manager had made sexual advances at her over the company chat service.

She writes, “It was clear that he 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.”

But the response from the institution was that “even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offence, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to,” she recounts. Upper management too was indifferent to her complaint, because he was apparently a ‘high performer’. She alleges she was told that she could either switch teams or expect a poor performance review; and the poor review would not be considered “retaliation” because she had been “given an option”.

Uber’s biggest controversies
  • Oct 2014: Reports emerge of a senior executive at Uber investigating private lives of journalists who wrote critical articles about’sexism and misogyny’ at the company.
  • Dec 2014: An Uber driver in Delhi rapes a passenger when driving her home late at night.
  • Jan 2017: Decision to turn off surge pricing at JFK airport at a time when Taxis were protesting Trump’s immigration order leads to #DeleteUber campaign on Twitter
  • Feb 2017: Travis Kalanick forced to leave Donald Trump’s advisory council after protests.

When it later emerged that several women had complained about the same person earlier and since; and had all received the same ‘first offence’ response, they all decided to schedule meetings with HR. In her meeting, the engineer was told that hers was the only offence reported and no further action could or would be taken.

The engineer paints a picture of an organization rife with politics, calling it a “game-of-thrones political war raging within the ranks of upper management”. When she joined Uber in November 2015, there were 25% women in the organization, and when she quit, out of over 150 engineers, only 3% were women, she alleges.

In response to the shocking allegations, CEO Travis Kalanick has ordered an “urgent investigation” into the claims. “What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in,” he said on Twitter. He said he had instructed Chief Human Resources Officer Liane Hornsey to conduct an urgent investigation.