career

Uber launches investigation into "abhorrent" sexual harassment claims made by former employee.

Uber will urgently investigate sexual harassment claims after a former employee detailed her “horrifying” experiences in a recent blog post.

American author Susan Fowler Rigetti worked as an engineer for Uber from November 2015 until December last year. On Sunday she revealed the sexual harassment she experienced while at the ride-sharing company’s California office in a long post to her blog.

Fowler Rigetti’s claims include that she was the victim of unwanted sexual propositions from her manager and that the allegation was handled poorly by the company’s human resources team.

Listen: When it comes to harassment claims, does the woman ever come out on top? Post continues… 

Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick said the company would “conduct an urgent investigation” into the allegations, promising to sack anyone who “behaves this way or thinks this is OK”.

The engineer described receiving messages from her manager that made it “clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him” on her first day in a new team.

“He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn’t,” Fowler Rigetti wrote.

“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.”

Susan Fowler Rigetti had a "slightly horrifying" experience at Uber. (Image: Shalon Van Tine.)
ADVERTISEMENT

Fowler Rigetti took screenshots of the messages and immediately reported him to HR.

"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 offence, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning," she wrote.

However, she later found out this was not the manager's "first offence" and despite other women's reports of harassment nothing was done to address his behaviour.

"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."

She claims that she was given a negative performance review so that her requests to transfer to a new team could be rejected.

"It turned out that keeping me on the team made my manager look good."

Fowler Rigetti's blog also alleges the company was rife with "sexism" and "organisational chaos".

"When I joined Uber, the organisation I was part of was over 25% women. By the time I was trying to transfer to another organisation, this number had dropped down to less than 6%."

She described her year at Uber as a "strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story".

The post caught social media attention and was soon read by the CEO, Mr Kalanick, who announced the investigation in a statement.

"I have just read Susan Fowler’s blog. What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in," he said.

"We seek to make Uber a just workplace and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behaviour at Uber."

00:00 / ???