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Ex-Uber employee opens up on how HR ignored her sexual harassment complaints
HRK News Bureau | New Delhi | Tuesday, 21 February 2017

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Former employee, Susan Fowler, wrote a blog accusing HR at Uber of mishandling her situation.

 

All eyes are on Uber Technologies Inc. now as it has been accused by one former employee of ignoring her sexual harassment complaints. CEO, Travis Kalanick, has launched an ‘urgent’ investigation into allegations of a toxic workplace culture, after former employee, Susan Fowler, wrote a blog post outlining how HR at Uber mishandled her situation.

In her blog, Fowler made allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at Uber, claiming that management repeatedly ignored her complaints, protected a repeat offender and threatened to dismiss her for raising concerns. This may also be clearly seen as another reason why there are less women in Silicon Valley’s technical ranks.

“On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. 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,” she mentioned in her blog.

In response to her complaint, “I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man's first offense, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to,” she stated.

In addition, she was told by the upper management that he "was a high performer" (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn't be at east punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.

She was also told by the HR that she could either move to another team or if she decides to stay, she would have to understand that it could affect her performance ratings. “One HR rep even explicitly told me that it wouldn't be retaliation if I received a negative review later because I had been ‘given an option’,” she says.

So, as the only feasible option, she moved to another team and to her surprise, discovered that there were other women, who had similar experiences in the past and even their complaints went unheeded. Also, to her surprise, some of the women shared stories about reporting the exact same manager, which meant that the HR was lying about that being his first ‘mistake’.

 “When I joined Uber, the organisation comprised over 25 per cent women. By the time I was trying to transfer to another engineering organisation, this number had dropped down to less than six per cent,” Fowler wrote.

She shares, “Women were transferring out of the organisation, and those who couldn’t transfer were quitting or preparing to quit. There were two major reasons for this: there was the organisational chaos, and there was also the sexism within the organisation.

“When I asked our director at an organisation all-hands about what was being done about the dwindling number of women in the organisation, his reply was, in a nutshell, that the women of Uber just needed to step up and be better engineers.”

Kalanick replied to the blog post by saying “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 and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behaviour— anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired,” he said.

© 2016 HR Katha

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