Continuing a year of embarrassment that will send lactating mothers scurrying into the company’s halls so Daddy can go meditate, Recode has unearthed a 2013 email written by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, instructing his employees on how to properly have sex with each other ahead of a trip to Miami. As with Uber itself, the intentions are good: The memo reminds everyone of the necessity of getting consent and of avoiding thorny relations between supervisors and subordinates, which is a safe, sensible, and conscientious policy you’d find in any employee handbook. But also as with Uber, actually reading it feels like being trapped sharing an UberPOOL with a Drakkar Noir-doused douche who insists on commandeering the Bluetooth so he can blast Maroon 5 while he brags about he “rolls,” then ends up chewing out the driver.
In what Recode says is internally called the “Miami letter,” Kalanick issues a set of dos and don’ts to Uber’s then-400 employees joining him for a celebration at Florida’s Shore Club, where they would be commemorating the company’s recent debut in its 50th global city. The party was billed using the Chinese symbol 九, which Kalanick helpfully explains stands for the number 9— “a symbol that has internal meaning at Uber but is something we do not discuss externally.” (Nevertheless, Recode cracked the “bro language,” revealing that 九 referred to Uber’s goal of reaching “ a billion-dollar run rate, or 10 to the 9th.”)
If the proliferation of secret codes and Chinese symbols that would make for wicked tats didn’t already convey that this corporate retreat would be the most epic frat party ever thrown, Kalanick also writes that he’s taken “a list of concerns from the legal department” and “translated these concerns into a clear set of common sense guidelines.” He then proceeds to do so, in the CEO’s own unique, sitting-backwards-in-a-chair parlance.
“You better read this or I’ll kick your ass,” Kalanick begins, encouraging everyone to “Have a great fucking time” in Miami, albeit with some caveats. For example, he writes, narcotics won’t be permitted “unless you have the appropriate medicinal licensing.” No one should get themselves arrested. (“We do not have a budget to bail anyone out of jail. Don’t be that guy.”) “There will be a $200 puke charge for any public displays on the Shore Club premises.” And of course, “Do not throw large kegs off of tall buildings. Please talk to Ryan McKillen and Amos Barreto for specific insights on this topic,” a reference to two of the company’s engineers. (Yeah, McKillin-It and Famous Amos know what he’s talkin’ about!)
But the section where Kalanick discusses inter-office romance is obviously getting the most attention today —particularly in light of the 20 Uber employees, including senior executives, who were fired this week amid more than 200 workplace sexual harassment claims filed by other employees who have complained about the generally childish, leering tone set by Uber’s upper management, and who say that its HR team systematically ignored their reports. Kalanick writes:
Do not have sex with another employee UNLESS a) you have asked that person for that privilege and they have responded with an emphatic “YES! I will have sex with you” AND b) the two (or more) of you do not work in the same chain of command. Yes, that means that Travis will be celibate on this trip. #CEOLife #FML
Investigators looking into that alleged corporate misbehavior are now reportedly considering whether Kalanick’s email may have helped to establish that tone, a conclusion that will depend on them drawing a correlation between Uber’s employees behaving like they were at a 24-hour mixer, and the CEO joking about how much it sucks that he can’t fuck them.
Again, while the letter of the law is standard workplace fare, and it’s even commendably adult about the realities of office romance, the email is unfortunately part of a continued image problem for the company and for Kalanick—a man who’s used the phrase “Hashtag winning” out loud and joked about how his company’s success has made him more desirable to women, saying, “We call that Boob-er.” Though if nothing else, someday this will all make a great guide for his fellow Silicon Valley entrepreneurs livin’ dat #CEOLife on how not to do things.