On February 19, 2017, a former Uber engineer by the name of Susan Fowler Rigetti published a blog post about her strange year working for the ride-hailing service. The article details a string of sexual harassment and discrimination allegations, including one that Rigetti experienced almost immediately after beginning work in her new role. According to Rigetti, she brought this and other incidences of harassment to Uber's HR department, yet Rigetti claims that nothing was done to stop the ongoing harassment that she - and other women - experienced.
Uber's Chief Human Resources Officer Liane Hornsey has now been ordered to conduct an urgent investigation into the matter. Uber's Chief Executive, Travis Kalanick, has also hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to help lead the investigation into Rigetti's claims.
About Rigetti's Sexual Harassment Claims Against Uber
Shortly after starting at Uber, Rigetti wrote that she received inappropriate, sexually-charged chat messages from a manager who said he was in an "open relationship." Rigetti claims that the manager said he was "trying to stay out of trouble at work" but that he also "couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with." Rigetti continued, writing that the manager was making it clear he wanted to have sex with her, too.
Even though Rigetti says that she immediately reported the sexual harassment to HR, both HR and upper management claimed that since this was the man's "first offense," they would simply give him a warning and a "stern talking-to." Additionally, upper management allegedly told Rigetti that the manager in question "was a high performer" and that they would not feel comfortable for punishing him for something that could have just been a mistake. Rigetti ultimately decided to leave her new team and find another team to work with so she could get away from the harassing manager.
Other Female Uber Employees Were Subjected to Sexual Harassment
Over the course of several months, Rigetti found that she was not the only woman engineer who was subjected to sexual harassment at Uber. Rigetti wrote on her blog that she was surprised some of the female employees shared stories that were similar to her own - including reporting inappropriate interactions with the same manager that she reported "long before" she was employed with the company. Rigetti blogged, "both HR and management had been lying about this being 'his first offense', and it certainly wasn't his last. Within a few months, he was reported once again for inappropriate behavior, and those who reported him were told it was still his 'first offense'. The situation was escalated as far up the chain as it could be escalated, and still nothing was done."
Rigetti and the other women who had reported the same manager in the past decided to hold individual meetings with HR to see if anything could be done. During Rigetti's meeting, she claims the HR rep told her that the manager had never been reported before, he committed just one offense (in his chats with Rigetti), and the other female engineers had not said anything bad about the manager. Rigetti wrote that this was "a blatant lie" and that "there was really nothing I could do. There was nothing any of us could do. We all gave up on Uber HR and our managers after that."
Women Engineers at Uber Faced Gender Discrimination
During another workplace incident, Rigetti claims that male engineers were given leather jackets as a company perk, but there were so few female engineers that Uber did not give women workers leather jackets because the company could not qualify for a bulk discount. Rigetti said that she complained about the unequal treatment of female employees, but HR told her that she might be the problem, not Uber. Rigetti wrote, "the HR rep began the meeting by asking me if I had noticed that *I* was the common theme in all of the reports I had been making, and that if I had ever considered that I might be the problem."
In a memo to his employees, Kalanick wrote that Uber is investigating Rigetti's claims and "diversity and inclusion at Uber more broadly." Kalanick also said that the ride-hailing giant will "take what's happened as an opportunity to heal wounds of the past and set new standard for justice in the workplace."
You can read Susan Fowler Rigetti's blog post in its entirety here: Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber
Uber Sexual Harassment Allegations: For Further Reading
- Uber hires Eric Holder to investigate sexual harassment claims via LA Times
- Uber Scrambles to Investigate Sexual Harassment Claim via Forbes.com
- Uber board member Arianna Huffington releases statement after company all-hands
- Uber investigating sexual harassment claims by ex-employee via NYTimes.com
No one should have to worry about sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. If you feel that you are a victim of sexual harassment in California, contact our passionate employment lawyers a Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation today.