Uber has fired more than 20 employees as part of its internal investigation into sexual harassment at the company, a source with knowledge of the matter told Business Insider.
The ride-hailing company announced the news internally to its 12,000 employees on Tuesday, the latest development in a series of scandals and controversies that have rocked the world’s most valuable private tech company.
The investigation by the outside law firm Perkins Coie looked into 215 claims of inappropriate workplace incidents, including everything from bullying to sexual harassment, according to the source. Uber took no action in 100 instances. There are still cases under investigation. News of the terminations was first reported by Bloomberg.
The Perkins Coie investigation lays the groundwork for the investigation being conducted for Uber by Eric Holder, the former US attorney general. Holder has provided recommendations, based on the Perkins Coie findings, to Uber’s board, though it’s not yet clear what those are. The company plans to release that information to its employees next week at an all-hands meeting.
Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, launched an internal investigation 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 the company. The company has been interviewing its employees internally, as well as having Perkins Coie and Holder investigate the company’s workplace.
Warnings and training
Seven Uber employees have received written warnings about their behaviour, and 30 employees will receive special training, according to the person with knowledge of the matter.
The terminations represent the largest fallout to date as Uber moves to get its house in order and move beyond a months-long string of crises. Earlier this year, Uber asked its senior vice president of engineering to resign after the company learned that he failed to disclose sexual-harassment allegations that were made against him at his previous job. Amit Singhal, the former Uber engineer, has denied the allegations. Another high-ranking executive, Ed Baker, abruptly left the company in March under unclear circumstances.
Uber is also embroiled in a trade-theft lawsuit with Waymo, the Google self-driving car spin-off, which has accused Uber of using stolen technology. Last month, Uber fired Anthony Levandowski, the star self-driving-car engineer who once worked for Google and is at the heart of the case. And the company’s image has been further tarnished by a string of negative reports about its business practices, such as its use of a special tool designed to help Uber evade regulators.
But the sexual-harassment allegations have caused some of the largest damage inside and outside the company. And it’s a problem Uber has been slow to recognise.
In late May, Uber’s human-resources chief in an interview had said sexual harassment wasn’t a problem for the company.
“(Fowler’s) blog shocked me,” Liane Hornsey, Uber’s HR head, told USA Today. “But, what did surprise me, was when I did the listening sessions, this didn’t come up as an issue. It wasn’t one of our big themes. Other things came up that are in that area, that our values are masculine and a little aggressive, but the harassment issue, I just didn’t find that at all.”