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Uber to pay $4.4 million to victims of alleged gender discrimination

Dec 19. 2019
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By The Washington Post · Faiz Siddiqui 

Uber will pay $4.4 million to victims of alleged gender discrimination and strengthen its defenses against sexual harassment, government officials announced Wednesday.

The settlement addresses claims arising from a probe opened by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2017 into Uber's workplace culture. The EEOC found reasonable cause to believe "Uber permitted a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation against individuals who complained about such harassment," according to the agency.

Uber voluntarily agreed to settle the claims with independent monitoring over its workplace culture and the establishment of a victims' compensation fund.

"We've worked hard to ensure that all employees can thrive at Uber by putting fairness and accountability at the heart of who we are and what we do," Uber's Chief Legal Officer Tony West said in a statement. "I am extremely pleased that we were able to work jointly with the EEOC in continuing to strengthen these efforts."

The investigation was initiated after public attention turned to Uber's workplace culture amid a series of scandals in 2017, including a viral blog post from then-employee Susan Fowler that alleged a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination. Some of those allegations helped result in the ouster of then-chief executive Travis Kalanick.

"This agreement holds Uber accountable, and, going forward, positions the company to innovate and transform the tech industry by modeling effective measures against sexual harassment and retaliation," EEOC Commissioner Victoria Lipnic said in a statement.

As part of the agreement, Uber agreed to let an outside official monitor its workplace. It will also establish a fund of $4.4 million to issue payouts to those who the EEOC finds experienced sexual harassment, retaliation or both with the company over a period beginning in 2014.

The EEOC said Uber had agreed to establish a mechanism for identifying workers who have been subject to multiple harassment complaints and for managers who did not respond to such complaints in a timely manner. It is also updating workplace policies in an effort to prevent gender discrimination, and focusing special attention on issues of sexual harassment and retaliation in forums such as exit interviews.

The EEOC said that women who worked at Uber from 2014 through June 30 will be informed of the agreement, and that those with claims can submit a report from which the agency will determine whether they're eligible for compensation.

Uber pointed to numerous workplace changes it has instituted since 2017 under the helm of its new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi.

The company said it established a new leadership team, eliminated a mandatory arbitration requirement for claims of sexual harassment and assault, and worked to institute a new culture guided by a mantra: "We do the right thing. Period."

Separately, Uber this month released its first transparency report detailing the scope of its sexual harassment and assault problem on the app, pledging improvements to the platform. The report found that there were 464 reports of alleged rape between 2017 and 2018 and nearly 6,000 reports of sexual assault.

The company has been dogged by allegations that it turned a blind eye to riders' safety problems and has been scolded for its treatment of drivers, especially in the wake of its May initial public offering.

 

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