Susan J. Fowler, now an engineer at Stripe, on her year at Uber:
Uber was a pretty good-sized company at that time, and I had
pretty standard expectations of how they would handle situations
like this. I expected that I would report him to HR, they would
handle the situation appropriately, and then life would go on —
unfortunately, things played out quite a bit differently. 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 offense, and that they
wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning
and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he “was a
high performer” (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his
superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for
what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.
Over the next few months, I began to meet more women engineers in
the company. As I got to know them, and heard their stories, I was
surprised that some of them had stories similar to my own. Some of
the women even had stories about reporting the exact same manager
I had reported, and had reported inappropriate interactions with
him long before I had even joined the company. It became obvious
that both HR and management had been lying about this being “his
first offense”, and it certainly wasn’t his last. Within a few
months, he was reported once again for inappropriate behavior, and
those who reported him were told it was still his “first offense”.
The situation was escalated as far up the chain as it could be
escalated, and still nothing was done.
The whole story is compelling, and paints a scathing picture of Uber’s company culture. But the fact that the company’s HR department blatantly lied to a series of women harassed by the same man, telling each of them it was his “first offense”, is not just cruel, but shows just how confident they were that the women in the company would keep quiet about their harassment.
Now that Fowler’s story has broken, expect a flood of additional stories.
★ Monday, 20 February 2017