Bloomberg reports that Uber hired private investigators to monitor an employee, China strategy chief Liu Zhen. It seems Uber’s concern was that Liu’s cousin Jean Liu is president of ride-hailing competitor Didi Chuxing.
Bloomberg further reports Uber surveiling competitors, and conducting “extensive vetting on potential hires.”
The use of private investigators was overseen by Joe Sullivan, Uber’s Chief Security Officer, through a team called Strategic Services Group.
In March 2017 remarks, in response to a widely-circulated blog by former Uber employe Susan Fowler about sexual harassment and the company’s refusal to respond to complaints of sexual harassment, Uber Board Member Arianna Huffington denied that sexual harassment at Uber was a “systemic problem”:
Yes, there were some bad apples, unquestionably. But this is not a systemic problem
In sharp contrast, when former Attorney General Eric Holder and colleagues examined misconduct at Uber, their report found 215 complaints of inappropriate workplace conduct, yielding at least 20 firings, 31 retrainings, and 7 final warnings.
In response to an internal review, Uber fired 20 employees for harassment, discrimination, and inappropriate behavior. 31 other employees were undergoing further training, and 57 additional complaints remained under review.
Fortune reports that Uber’s engineering team is just 15.1% women — calling that figure “bad–even by tech industry standards.” (Compare Facebook at 17%, Google at 19%, Apple at 23%, and Airbnb at 26%.)
In February 2017, the New York Times reported misconduct by Uber employees: A manager groped a female co-worker’s breasts at a company retreat, a director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate, a manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee with a baseball bat, employees used cocaine at private parties, and an employee hijacked a shuttle bus and took it for a joy ride.
In a February 2017 lawsuit, Google alleged that Uber stole proprietary Google technology for autonomous cars. Google reported that Anthony Levandowski, an original member of Google’s self-driving car project, downloaded over 14,000 confidential files (9.7GB) pertaining to Google’s designs and testing, and used this information in Otto, a self-driving company that Uber later acquired. Complaint.
When Levandowski refused to testify or otherwise cooperate with litigation, invoking the Fifth Amendment to refuse to incriminate himself, Uber fired him.
Litigation brought by Benchmark Capital indicates that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick knew, before acquiring Otto, about the likelihood that Levandowski had Google materials. In particular, in March 2016, a month before Uber acquired Otto, Uber retained an investigator to assess whether Levandowski and others had Google materials. Benchmark Capital further alleges that Kalanick never shared this information with Uber investors.
Uber employees visited a South Korean escort bar.
When one member of the party later complained, Uber SVP of Business Emil Michael contacted a person who had been there to ask that she tell anyone who asked that it was just karaoke. She refused, taking his request for a cover-up as impetus to discuss the incident publicly.
Details from The Verge.
Before a 2013 company event in Miami, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick emailed company employees with a sexually-charged message that included jokes about employee sex, violence, and parties.
Recode reported that colleagues discouraged Kalanick from sending this message but he did so anyway.
Former Uber software engineer Susan Fowler posted a 4,000+ word report of her experience reporting sexual harassment at Uber. Among other problems, she reported multiple senior managers failing to take action on the problems she reported — and retaining the employees who engaged in misconduct.