Highway to Hell: Uber Gives 20 Employees the Last Ride Amid Claims of Harassment and Discrimination

Highway to Hell: Uber Gives 20 Employees the Last Ride Amid Claims of Harassment and Discrimination

Few companies have ingrained themselves into American culture faster or more thoroughly than Uber. Indeed, the ride-share giant is now one of (if not the most) common forms of transportation in this country. Unfortunately, Uber’s financial success has not been matched with compliance victories, as throughout the company’s history there have always been stories of inappropriate behavior within the company, both at the employee level and at the contractor (driver) level.

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A Culture of Harassment

The current corporate crisis was set off in February 2017 when a former Uber engineer wrote a detailed blog post on her personal website detailing her departure from the company, the harassment that led to that departure, and the company’s failure to do anything about it. The next several months saw Uber embroiled in a public firestorm over it’s “bad boy” culture, and also saw a social media campaign to use other ridesharing services as a means of protest over the company’s culture of harassment.

Uber Takes Action: Too Little too Late?

According to a New York Times article, Uber fired 20 employees last week. These departures followed an investigation by the company’s law firm into Uber’s compliance culture, which revealed 47 incidents of harassment and 54 incidents of some form of discrimination. The report also revealed other categories of unprofessional behavior including retaliation, assaults, and bullying.

In response to the firings, Uber is conducting several different types of training for its employees in an attempt to change its compliance culture. Through its law firm, the company also acknowledged there is a serious problem within its culture.  Uber’s attempt at reform coincided with its CEO taking a leave of absence, beginning June 13, 2017, so its board of directors could more closely watch the company’s employees.

Can the Company Recover from its Downward Spiral?

Whether Uber recovers from its current crisis depends largely on how hard the company works to change its compliance culture. As we have advised for several years on this blog, top-down compliance failures often have a massive impact on a company’s overall ability to maintain the desired culture. In Uber’s case, the company appears to have long ignored its culture altogether and disregarded a need to hire employees who value differing opinions and different people equally. Moving the iceberg is not easy, but it is also not impossible.

As noted, Uber has begun conducting training sessions for employees. Ideally, these training sessions do not merely “check the box,” but rather take an actual attempt at displaying the benefits of a positive culture of compliance.  If Uber can instill the belief within its employees that it is committed to compliance it is entirely possible that the scandals of 2017 will become nothing but a memory and we will all continue to “Uber” across the country.  If not, it is highly likely the company has truly traveled too far down the Highway to Hell.

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Syntrio is a leader in both the ethics and compliance field, as well as human resources and employment law, and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of compliance violations within the organization. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!


Written by Jonathan GonzalezEsq., Senior Counsel for Syntrio

Posted in Bullying, Code of Conduct, Compliance Training, Diversity and Respect, Ethics, Retaliation, Sexual Harassment and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , .