Uber has agreed to transform its working culture after an external investigation into unacceptable behaviour recommended fundamental changes to its workplaces. These changes, however, will not be disclosed until they are recommended to employees on Tuesday. Question marks have been hovering over Uber’s head for some, with 20 employees let go in the last week alone. Now, controversial chief executive Travis Kalanick is expected to take a leave of absence.
The board’s recommendations are the culmination of an external investigation by Covington & Burling, the law firm of former U.S. Attorney, General Eric Holder. The investigation was launched in February after former Uber engineer Susan Fowler penned a blog post claiming harassment and “organisational chaos” within the company.
Ms. Fowler alleges she experienced a number of damning incidents which took place in the year she spent with the company. These include sexual harassment, which Ms. Fowler claims began only weeks after joining the company. She claims that her – and other colleagues’ – complaints to HR about the company’s working culture were noted, but not acted-upon. She also alleges that managers within the company acted like characters from TV show Game of Thrones, undermining authority in bids to oust their superiors and take their place.
Referring to her harassment, she wrote, “I expected that I would report him to HR, they would handle the situation appropriately, and then life would go on – unfortunately, things played out quite a bit differently. When I reported the situation, 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.”
Last week Uber confirmed over Twitter than it fired 20 employees, as part of a parallel investigation conducted by law firm Perkins Coie. The probe, which is examining 215 cases of inappropriate incidents in Uber workplaces, as of last Wednesday had sent 31 for training and issued ‘final warnings’ to 7 more. 57 cases at that point were still under review. Since the beginning of this year, Uber’s Senior VP of Engineering resigned after the company discovered allegations of sexual assault made against him at his previous job, while another executive, Ed Baker, left the company in March amidst unclear circumstances.
A number of scandals also surround Uber’s SVP of Business, Emil Michael, who is facing mounting pressure to resign. Michael was embroiled in scandal back in November 2014 when he suggested that Uber use its finances to run opposition journalism to critics in the media. A spokeswoman for Michael reached out to BuzzFeed, who originally ran the story, saying: “The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner—borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for—do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.”
The company was forced to deny that it investigated the travel history of journalists who use the service and clarified that it does not conduct opposition research on critics of the service.
By Tuesday, Uber’s internal board is expected to have publicly clarified what changes to the company’s working culture these seismic scandals entail, along with the situations of both Kalanick and Michael, with the former expected to take as much as a 3-month leave of absence.