Johannesburg - Member of Uber’s Board, Arianna Huffington, has thrown her weight behind the cab-hailing service’s founder Travis Kalanick and will be conducting an independent investigation into sexual harassment claims at the company.
In a blog post earlier this week, a former Uber site reliability engineer, Susan Fowler Rigetti, documented her experiences of sexism and sexual harassment by employees at the company.
Shortly after the post, CEO and founder, Kalanick tweeted: "What's described here is abhorrent & against everything we believe in. Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.”
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Kalanick then tweeted: “I've instructed our CHRO Liane to conduct an urgent investigation. There can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber.”
In a responding tweet, Huffington said: “Just talked w/ Travis & as a representative of Uber's Board I will work w/Liane to conduct a full independent investigation starting now.”
In an extended blog post on the Uber website, the Huffington Post news website founder said that she had joined Kalanick and Liane Hornsey, Uber’s recently hired Chief Human Resources Officer, for the company’s weekly meeting.
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“Travis spoke very honestly about the mistakes he’s made — and about how he wants to take the events of the last 48-hours to build a better Uber,” she said in the post.
“It was great to see employees holding managers accountable. I also view it as my responsibility to hold the leadership team’s feet to the fire on this issue,” she added.
“Change doesn’t usually happen without a catalyst. I hope that by taking the time to understand what’s gone wrong and fixing it we can not only make Uber better but also contribute to improvements for women across the industry,” Huffington went further to say.
Uber also appointed former US Attorney General Eric Holder to lead the independent review into claims of sexual harassment by Rigetti.
Rigetti’s blog post details sexual advances made by a colleague and correspondence with HR over sexual harassment and sexist claims.
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“On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn't. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR,” an extract from her post read.
“When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man's first offense, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to,” her post went further to read.
The post also detailed sexist instances at the company including the director of engineering ordering leather jackets for the site's reliability engineers, but later deciding to only give the jackets to male engineers because there were too few women in the company to qualify for a bulk purchase discount.
"The director replied back, saying that if we women really wanted equality, then we should realise we were getting equality by not getting the leather jackets," she wrote. "He said that because there were so many men in the org, they had gotten a significant discount on the men's jackets but not on the women's jackets, and it wouldn't be equal or fair, he argued, to give the women leather jackets that cost a little more," her post said.
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