Uber’s controversial and negative headlines just won’t end. The latest issue for the company is a problem that actually began back in August but is coming to a head now after months of back and forth between Uber and the family of a former employee. The employee in question Joseph Thomas, an engineer who had worked at the company for five months, committed suicide in August. He passed up a potential job at Apple to start working for the Silicon Valley upstart but the job ended in tragedy and now his widow, Zecole Thomas, wants to hold the company responsible.
Zecole Thomas believes that she deserves worker compensation benefits on behalf of her husband’s death, but Uber claims that he did not work at the company long enough to qualify for “psychiatric injury” benefits which would otherwise be required under California law. However, Thomas asserts that the company culture and overall environment directly contributed to her husband’s sudden death and therefore she is owed the benefits as it had a “pronounced effect on his mental health.” Thomas elaborated on the situation to the San Francisco Chronicle,
“His personality changed totally. He was horribly concerned about his work, to the point it was almost unbelievable. He was saying he couldn’t do anything right.”
With Thomas’ current legal action, she could eventually be paid more than $700,000 for her loss according to her lawyer. There may also be a racil aspect to the negative environment claims as Thomas was a Black man in a company that is made up of only 1% of Black employees and there have been past complaints surrounding this disparity. Uber’s only statement right now doesn’t shed any legal insight on the case as they only passed along a rote statement to the Chronicle.
“No family should go through the unspeakable heartbreak the Thomas family has experienced. Our prayers and thoughts are with them.”
Thomas hasn’t responded to Uber’s “prayers and thoughts” just yet but with lawyers involved she is obviously hoping for a more tangible result of her request than just prayers.