Uber has started firing employees following harassment probe

No, Travis Kalanick wasn’t one of them.

Exterior view of the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Risberg
Exterior view of the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Heads are starting to roll at Uber following the company’s internal investigation into hundreds of claims regarding sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and other workplace transgressions. The ride-sharing company has fired at least 20 people, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

Perkins Coie LLP, the legal firm hired to conduct the investigation, handed out recommendations to Uber executives regarding the 215 human resource claims submitted for review.

No action was taken on 100 of those claims, while 57 are still being investigated. In addition to the firings, 31 Uber employees are in counseling or training, and seven have gotten written warnings.

One of individuals fired was Eric Alexander, Uber’s president of business in the Asia Pacific, who obtained medical records of a 26-year-old rape victim in New Delhi, India. The woman was raped and assaulted by her Uber driver in December 2014, Recode reported. The records were part of a criminal investigation.

Uber publicly condemned the attack and praised the driver’s prison sentence. But Alexander passed around the woman’s medical records, showing them to CEO Travis Kalanick and SVP Emil Michael, Recode reported.

The dismissals follow revelations from former engineer Susan Fowler, who published a story in February detailing her experiences with unchecked harassment at the company. Kalanick then fired engineering VP Amit Singhal for his history of sexual harassment allegations. Following Fowler’s blog post, Kalanick pushed forward with an investigation and vowed to root out injustice.

“It is my number one priority that we come through this a better organization, where we live our values and fight for and support those who experience injustice,” he said in a memo to employees in February.

The company has since suffered several public relations disasters, including a messy lawsuit with Google over their rivaling self-driving car programs, video of Kalanick berating an Uber driver, his former girlfriend seemingly confirming the company’s sexist culture, losing its communications and policy head, the suicide of one its black engineers after just months on the job, and activating (and then removing) surge pricing following the London attacks in June. Uber also kicked off the year with driver protests and the loss of more than 200,000 customers in response to the company’s initial tepid stance on the Trump administration’s travel ban targeting predominantly Muslim countries.

More recently though, Uber has made some dynamic hires that could help the company’s persistent diversity problem. In January, Uber hired Bernard Coleman as the company’s global diversity and inclusion head.

Coleman, who oversaw the company’s release of its first diversity report in March, said the report was “the first step of many” to help improve workplace culture. “I’m kind of excited to see some progress,” he said at TechCrunch’s diversity and inclusion event in San Francisco Tuesday. “I want to make Uber a better and better place to work.”

As of this week, Uber also hired Harvard Business School’s Frances Frei will join the company as its first senior vice president of leadership and strategy, Recode reported. The academic and prominent business management expert will occupy a broad role that covers training managers, executives, recruiting, and overall coordination with Uber’s human resources department leads. Uber has also reportedly hired Bozoma Saint John, Apple Music’s head of global marketing.

This post has been updated to reflect comments from Uber’s diversity head Bernard Coleman and news regarding the substance of one of the 215 human resources claims investigated.