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Uber fires 20 employees following harassment investigation

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Reuters has reported that Uber has fired 20 employees in the US yesterday (6 June)  as a result of an ongoing harassment probe.  

The decision was a following a report by law firm Perkins Coie, which Uber hired to look into claims of harassment, discrimination, bullying and other employee concerns. The law firm has been working in parallel with a broader investigation by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder into company culture and practices.

As a result, Perkins Coie investigated 215 staff complaints going back as far as 2012 - to which Uber said that it is taking action in 58 cases and no action on 100 more. Other investigations are continuing.

Of all the claims, Uber said 54 were related to discrimination, 47 related to sexual harassment, 45 to unprofessional behavior, 33 to bullying and 36 to other types of claims. It said the majority of the claims came from employees based at its San Francisco headquarters.

According to a source familiar to the matter, the firm also told staff that it would expand its employee relations unit to better investigate claims; and that it would dramatically increase management training since most Uber managers were first-time bosses.

On Monday, the company said it hired Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei to train all managers, reporting to Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick.

On Tuesday, it said Bozoma Saint John, prominent in some Apple product launches, has joined the company as chief brand officer.Uber also said it is offering a confidential helpline for employees to report concerns and has implemented a system to log and track all complaints.

ALSO READ: Uber HR under fire for ignoring sexual harassment complaint

The decision to fires its employees actually came after a series of events this year that have raised questions about the firm’s business model and leadership.

The company declined to comment further on the move to fire staff. Some saw it as a step in the right direction for Uber to repair its tarnished reputation.

Jason Hanold, manager partner, Hanold Associates said: "They are heading the right way, both with action and reaction.”

He added it was "not nearly a complete and final surgery to heal a troubled culture."

The move follows a string of executive departures at Uber, including the company president, heads of finance and product, an East Coast general manager and several high-level engineers.

For the last three months, Uber has been seeking a chief operating officer to work alongside Kalanick. Uber board member Bill Gurley is overseeing the search.

Uber has also been under the microscope of Holder and Tammy Albarran, partners at the law firm Covington & Burling, who were asked to conduct a broad review of sexual harassment at Uber as well as general questions about diversity and inclusion. Their report was completed at the end of May and has been shared with a subcommittee of the Uber board of directors, a company representative said.

In March, Uber board member Arianna Huffington pledged to make the findings of Holder's investigation available to the public. Initially, the company had expected to make a public announcement this week, but that timing has been pushed back.

Uber is expected to discuss it with staff next week, a person familiar with the matter said.

Photo / 123RF

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