Uber board member Arianna Huffington doubles down on position that sexual harassment at Uber isn't 'systemic'

Uber board member Arianna Huffington doubled down on her position that sexual harassment is not a “systemic problem” at Uber.

On Tuesday, news broke that Uber had fired more than 20 employees as part of its internal investigation into sexual harassment and other bad behaviour at the company. This investigation by outside law firm Perkins Coie started in February after a former employee, Susan Fowler, said in a personal blog post that she was sexually harassed and experienced gender bias during her time at Uber.

But even after the investigation, and the firings, Huffington maintains that sexual harassment at Uber isn’t systemic.

“I never said there wasn’t a systemic cultural problem, I was talking specifically about sexual harassment,” Huffington told CNBC on Wednesday, in reference to her comments in March that the harassment at Uber wasn’t systemic. “It all depends on your definition of systemic.”

Most applications of the word “systemic,” in this instance, would center around whether Uber’s management system failed to adequately address sexual harassment, and in doing so promoted its continuation.

As Dan Primack pointed out in the Axios Pro Rata newsletter, the key number from the Perkins Coie report is 37%, which is the amount of existing HR claims that led to further action (termination, warning, training, or counseling). That is, by most reasonable standards, a huge failure on Uber’s part. And it’s hard to argue that the system Uber had in place was not — unintentionally or intentionally — designed to mismanage these complaints.

As a result of the investigation, the company has already fired 20 employees. Another 31 employees are in training and seven have been issued final warnings. 57 claims remain under review and the company didn’t take action in 100 of the claims, according to Uber.

According to Uber, here’s the breakdown of all the 215 complaints:

  • Discrimination: 54
  • Sexual harassment: 47
  • Unprofessional behaviour: 45
  • Bullying: 33
  • Harassment (other): 19
  • Retaliation: 13
  • Physical security: 3
  • Wrongful termination: 1

Additional reporting by Biz Carson.

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