Uber Investigating Sexual Harassment Claims by Ex-Employee

The
chief executive of Uber on Sunday opened an internal investigation into
claims of sexual harassment made by a former engineer at the company.
The
engineer, Susan Fowler, said that she was sexually harassed by her
direct supervisor during her time at Uber and that after she reported
those claims to the human resources department, they were ignored. She
gave her account in a lengthy post on her personal blog on Sunday.
“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,” Ms. Fowler wrote. 
“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.”
Ms. Fowler left Uber in December and this year joined Stripe, a payments processing start-up.
Ms.
Fowler’s account is another sign of Silicon Valley’s struggle with
women’s issues and diversity in a male-dominated engineering
environment. In 2015, the venture capital world was put under the
microscope when Ellen Pao, a former partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield
& Byers, claimed in a lawsuit that she was discriminated against at
the blue-chip venture firm because of her gender — a case she lost.
Ms.
Fowler’s story is particularly resonant because of Uber’s reputation
for having an intense workplace culture with high turnover.
Hours
after Ms. Fowler’s post, Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, said
it was the first time the issue had come to his attention. He said he
had instructed Liane Hornsey, the company’s recently hired chief of
human resources, “to conduct an urgent investigation into these
allegations.”
Mr.
Kalanick said in an emailed statement: “What she describes is abhorrent
and against everything Uber stands for and believes in. 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 O.K. will be fired.”
In
a Twitter post on Sunday, Arianna Huffington, the business mogul and a
board member at Uber, solicited feedback from employees and said she
would work with Ms. Hornsey to support the investigation.
Messages sent to Ms. Fowler over email and Twitter were not immediately answered on Sunday.
Uber
recently faced a backlash when Mr. Kalanick agreed to join President
Trump’s economic advisory council. The matter reached a fever pitch
around the time of Mr. Trump’s travel ban against seven predominantly
Muslim countries, and hundreds of thousands of people deleted their Uber
accounts from their phones in protest of the company.
After the outcry, Mr. Kalanick eventually stepped down from Mr. Trump’s council.
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