Friday 14 December 2018

HR chief joins exodus of leading figures from Uber

The world’s biggest ride-hailing firm has had a year of internal upheaval, with head of human resources Liane Hornsey the latest top executive to depart
The world’s biggest ride-hailing firm has had a year of internal upheaval, with head of human resources Liane Hornsey the latest top executive to depart

Eric Newcomer

Uber Technologies' head of human resources has resigned, becoming the latest high-profile executive to depart the ride-hailing giant only just emerging from a year of internal upheaval.

Liane Hornsey's exit came after an anonymous employee, emailing Uber's whistle-blower account and chief legal officer Tony West, threatened to go public with grievances if the company didn't take action.

The whistle-blower accused Ms Hornsey of dismissing internal allegations of racial discrimination, according to a person who read the email. Bloomberg hasn't obtained a copy of the complaints.

CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced Hornsey's departure in a staff email obtained by Bloomberg. Her resignation came just after she led an off-site gathering for HR staff.

"I know this comes a little out of the blue for some of you, but I have been thinking about this for a while," Hornsey wrote her team in an email.

Uber declined to comment, while Ms Hornsey wasn't immediately available for comment.

Ms Hornsey arrived at the world's largest ride-hailing company in January 2017, just a month before former Uber software engineer Susan Fowler published an explosive blogpost chronicling the sexual harassment she faced at the company.

In June of that year, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick resigned as CEO amid a number of scandals, including accusations that Uber fostered a hostile workplace culture.

Ms Hornsey had initially defended Mr Kalanick and the company, only to later promise that Uber would reform under a new CEO.

That made her a divisive figure among employees who either thought Uber had changed too much, and others who reckoned it had changed too little. For his part, Mr Khosrowshahi praised Ms Hornsey's leadership during her 18 months at the firm.

After the complaint against her, Mr West, Uber's top lawyer, who joined in November, enlisted Gibson Dunn, an outside law firm to run independent investigations of Uber's top executives. The firm then investigated the accusations against Ms Hornsey. Mr West later told the anonymous complainant he didn't intend to disclose the firm's findings, according to a separate email Bloomberg obtained.

"Serious allegations alone, even when they turn out to be unsubstantiated, can damage a person's career and reputation, implicating important due process, privacy and moral concerns," he wrote in the email.

"We should keep in mind that the simple fact that we may not observe disciplinary action doesn't mean serious measures haven't been imposed, if and where appropriate." (Bloomberg)

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