Last month, prompted by Uber’s shitty capitalization on protests at JFK airport and CEO Travis Kalanick’s membership on one of President Donald Trump’s economic advisory councils, the #DeleteUber hashtag urged left-leaning smartphone owners everywhere to trash the app from their devices. In its wake, Uber quickly condemned the Muslim ban enforced by the current president—the source of those protests—and Kalanick even stepped down from the council.
Of course, this wasn’t Uber’s only dalliance of bad press. Late last year, it was revealed that Uber staff reportedly used the company’s technology to spy on celebrities, politicians, and even the exes of its employees. Pamela Anderson has been vocal about her distaste for the company, and, hell, you’ve even got T.J. Miller allegedly straight-up slapping its drivers in the head (not something we’d recommend).
In the wake of these allegations comes a personal account from engineer Susan J. Fowler, who posted a stomach-churning piece to her personal website yesterday concerning her experience with the company’s sexism and irresponsible human resources department. She joined Uber in late 2015 as a site reliability engineer and was almost immediately sexually propositioned by her manager. After taking screenshots of the messages and reporting the incident to human resources, she was told no action would be taken against the employee since this was his “first offense” and he was a “high performer.” What’s even more disgusting, however, is what happened next:
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”).
(Surprise, surprise, Fowler soon discovered from fellow female engineers that this absolutely wasn’t the dude’s “first offense.”)
Fowler also discusses the shadiness surrounding the company’s performance review process. Despite receiving high marks, she found herself denied a transfer due to “undocumented performance problems.” After probing for more information, she was creepily told that “performance problems aren’t always something that has to do with work, but sometimes can be about things outside of work or your personal life.” More instances of harassment led to further discussions with HR, wherein she was accused of perpetuating the problems.
Kalanick has since responded with this statement to The Huffington Post:
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 FOR EVERYONE 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.
Still, Fowler watched her organization drop from being staffed by more than 25 percent women to just 6 percent during her single-year tenure there, numbers which speak volumes about the company’s toxic culture, as do her stories of “a game-of-thrones political war raging within the ranks of upper management in the infrastructure engineering organization.”
Like, even the rapper who wrote that “Uber Everywhere” song is using Lyft now.