Uber has tapped former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to help lead an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination made by a former female employee who made her claims public over the weekend in a blog post, the Washington Post reports.
In a memo shared Monday, CEO Travis Kalanick told employees the review would be conducted in “short order” and would involve other officials, including Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post and an Uber board member, and Liane Hornsey, Uber’s recently hired human resources chief.
Susan Fowler Rigetti, who worked as an engineer at the transport company, wrote in the widely circulated blog post that in her year working for the company, she and other female employees reported several incidents of sexual harassment and discrimination to Uber’s HR department.
Rigetti claimed that soon after joining the company, a manager sent her messages saying that he was in an “open relationship” and making advances toward her. Rigetti said that she took screenshots of the conversation and immediately reported the incident to human resources ... except, she said, things didn’t go quite as she expected them to go.
“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,” Rigetti wrote. “Upper management told me that he ‘was a high performer’ (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.”
Rigetti said she was then told that she could either go and find another team and never have to interact with the man again, or she could stay on the team, but would need to “understand” that she would most likely get a poor performance review whenever the time came around, and there was nothing human resources could do about it.
Rigetti said she later learned, upon joining another team and meeting more female engineers, that the manager’s apparent “first offense” wasn’t really a first offense at all; nor was it his last.
“It was such a blatant lie that there was really nothing I could do. There was nothing any of us could do. We all gave up on Uber HR and our managers after that,” Rigetti wrote.
Following the blog post, Kalanick sent out tweets calling the incidents described in Rigetti’s post “abhorrent” and “against everything we believe in.”
The allegations are but the latest mark against Uber, which became the target of protests after news broke of Kalanick’s former role as an adviser to President Donald Trump and the company’s response to the travel ban that targeted citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations.
In the memo regarding Rigetti’s complaint, Kalanick said that Holder’s investigation will include both Rigetti’s claim as well as “diversity and inclusion at Uber more broadly,” the Post notes.
“What is driving me through all this is a determination that we take what’s happened as an opportunity to heal wounds of the past and set a new standard for justice in the workplace,” Kalanick wrote in the memo.
Read more at the Washington Post.