On Sunday, a blog post from former Uber engineer Susan J. Fowler went viral. She made allegations of sexual harassment and gender bias, which painted a horrendous portrait of her time at the transportation company. Very quickly, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick — who is fresh off dealing with a boycott that prompted him to step down from Trump’s economic advisory council — called for an “urgent investigation” into the events described by Fowler.
Fowler worked for Uber for a year, and she claims that on her very first day, her manager sent her inappropriate messages (which she screencapped), and “it was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him.” She swiftly reported him to HR, yet she says her concerns were dismissed by senior management as “this man’s first offense,” and because he was a “high performer,” they let it slide. Yet the harassment allegedly continued, and Fowler was dealt some abysmal options while the manager stayed put:
I was then told that I had to make a choice: (i) I could either go and find another team and then never have to interact with this man again, or (ii) I could stay on the team, but I would have to understand that he would most likely give me a poor performance review when review time came around, and there was nothing they could do about that. I remarked that this didn’t seem like much of a choice, and that I wanted to stay on the team because I had significant expertise in the exact project that the team was struggling to complete (it was genuinely in the company’s best interest to have me on that team), but they told me the same thing again and again. 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.” I tried to escalate the situation but got nowhere with either HR or with my own management chain (who continued to insist that they had given him a stern-talking to and didn’t want to ruin his career over his “first offense”).
Fowler switched teams, and after getting to know her female co-workers, she found that they, too, alleged similar experiences with the same manager. Fowler says her new manager later told her she was “on thin ice” for reporting the first manager to HR. She was threatened with dismissal if she reported anything again, and Fowler claims that an HR rep wondered aloud, “if I had ever considered that I might be the problem.” Her entire blog post describes many more allegations that describe appalling actions (including plenty of gender bias), and since all of Fowler’s efforts to resolve the situation went nowhere, she quit her job and found a new workplace within a week.
Following Fowler’s blog post, Kalanick released the following statement:
“I have just read Susan Fowler’s blog. 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 behavior at Uber — and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.”
As a direct result of Fowler’s allegations, the #DeleteUber hashtag is now trending on Twitter again.