Sexual harassment happens in workplace environments all across the country every single day.
Uber, however, has recently gained widespread media attention amid allegations of several sexual harassment claims-so much so that former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has now gotten involved.
Who or what is Uber?
Uber Technologies, Inc., or simply known as Uber, is a ridesharing service that operates via a mobile app. Users sign up for an account and can request a pickup service via their Smartphone at any time.
Since launching in 2009, the company has exploded in popularity. Many consumers are excited about such a streamlined alternative transportation service in lieu of a traditional taxi service.
However, despite the company’s success, Uber has experienced some issues-namely workplace violations. Several former employees have come forward, accusing the company of allowing illegal sexual harassment actions.
The initial allegations against Uber
Late last year, a (now-former) employee of the company publically released a statement about the sexual harassment she experienced as an engineer with the company.
Shortly after starting her job, she says she received several messages from her manager soliciting her for sex. She reported the issue to HR-even provided screenshots of his messages.
The response from HR
Astonishingly, she was told, in-a-nutshell that they weren’t going to do much.
He was a “high performer” they told her. But more importantly, she says, they told her it was because no other employee had accused him of sexual misconduct.
They basically gave her ultimatum: Go find another team to work with at the company and avoid him. She was told that she could choose to stay on her current team, but it likely meant that she would receive a poor, year-end annual performance review.
Under the law, a poor performance review is, in essence, retaliation for reporting the conduct-and blatantly illegal. But, not according to Uber. One of the company’s HR reps told the employee that such action was not illegal or retaliatory because she was “given an option.”
She continued to push back, but her boss called her out for continuously reporting their manager’s behavior to HR. According to her boss, she “was on very thin ice”-another blatantly illegal action.
Her decision to leave
Rather than stay the course, she decided to leave the company. Soon after, she learned about similar stories from other women about the same former manager. Moreover, these women also reported this manager’s misconduct to their HR department. Despite the company’s determination to refrain from taking any action because it was his “first offense,” it’s clear the company was well aware that it was not.
Another Uber employee comes forward
Given Uber’s status as a billion dollar, thriving enterprise, perhaps this manager, his actions and those of the company’s HR reps were simply a one-off situation. It seems not.
Another woman (a former Uber engineer) recently came forward with claims of sexual harassment by the manager of her department. She said she was restricted from working in certain areas and criticized for her attire, as it distracted certain male employees. She too reported the issues to her HR rep but says her claim was basically “swept under the rug.”
Uber brings in reinforcement
After several other reports, Uber took action which, to some, could be classified as damage control. Uber hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. With the help of several other parties, Holder says he will conduct an independent investigation of the sexual harassment allegations with the Uber organization.
Reaching out to an attorney
Although this issue involves a high profile company-sexual harassment happens all of the time in all types of workplace environments. And, like Uber, many claims are ignored or simply labeled as over exaggerations by employees.
Regardless of what the employer says or does, employees facing any type of sexual harassment at work should always reach out to an employment law attorney for advocacy and guidance.