Saturday 29 April 2017

Uber to investigate sexual harassment claim by engineer

Uber's boss ordered an urgent probe into the claim
Uber's boss ordered an urgent probe into the claim

Uber's chief executive has ordered an urgent investigation into a sexual harassment claim made by a female engineer who alleged her prospects at the company evaporated when she complained about advances from her boss.

Travis Kalanick responded on Monday on Twitter to an open statement by Susan Fowler Rigetti about her year working at the ride-hailing app.

In a blog post titled Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber, Ms Rigetti claimed the company's human resources department ignored her complaints because her boss was a high performer.

Mr Kalanick said that what Ms Rigetti described "is abhorrent" and "against everything we believe in".

He said he has instructed the company's chief human resources officer to look into the matter, adding "there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behaviour at Uber".

In her blog, Ms Rigetti said she joined Uber as a site reliability engineer in November 2015.

She alleged that on her first official day with the company, her boss propositioned her in a string of messages on the company chat system. She said as it was "clearly out of line", she immediately took screen shots of the remarks.

"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," she wrote.

Ms Rigetti, who did not name the manager at issue, left the team. But she claimed as she tried to progress in the company, she found her way blocked. She alleged sexism was rampant in the company, and that when she pointed that out at a company meeting, she was rebuffed.

At one time, she claimed that the director of engineering ordered leather jackets for the site's reliability engineers, but later decided it would 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."

The remarks could strike a nerve among those trying to bolster the number of women in science and engineering, who have long argued that male-dominated atmospheres are discouraging the talented from seeking careers in the sector.

Ms Rigetti said she temporarily disabled comments on her blog post "because there were too many for me to keep up with".

AP

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