Bay Area tech companies are synonymous with innovation, but the #MeToo movement had a significant impact there as it did in traditional business, media and entertainment. Uber was one of the many tech-based companies that tolerated sexual harassment in the workplace.
This changed when a former engineer named Susan Fowler blogged about being sexually harassed at the company by coworkers and even her boss. She went on to point out that the company’s human resources department ignored her complaints.
The blog quickly went viral. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) got involved with an investigation of its own, finding that the company “permitted a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation against individuals who complained about such harassment.” The company ended firing 20 employees and managers.
The EEOC now announced that Uber had resolved the matter by creating a $4.4 million fund to compensate any employee who experienced sexual harassment and/or related behavior like retaliation between January 1, 2014, and June 30, 2019. Other steps by Uber include:
- Creating a system to identify any employee who is the subject of more than one harassment complaint.
- Creating a system for identifying managers who do not respond to concerns on these matters in a timely fashion.
- It has also updated policies using third-party consultants working with Uber.
- The company will also be monitored for three years by former EEOC head Fred Alvarez to ensure the behavior does not continue.
As part of the company’s new culture of transparency, after years of shrouding this information in secrecy, the company recently announced that more 3,000 sexual assaults were reported during 2018. The victims were both riders and drivers, and many of the attacks took place between riders.
Companies need to be more careful than ever
There has been a change in culture here in the U.S. and many other places in the world. More people now understand what sexual assault is and feel more comfortable reporting this illegal behavior. Companies have to continue to update their employee manuals to address these changes. Still, companies need to follow Uber’s lead by working with an employment law attorney to ensure that it has effective protocols in place to address these matters.