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Uber faces sexual harassment claims

February 20, 2017

The ride-sharing company Uber says it will investigate an engineer's claims of sexual harassment and sexism at the firm. CEO Travis Kalanick said that anyone guilty of the described behavior would be dismissed.

USA Pittsburgh Uber Autonomes Fahren
Image: picture-alliance/AP Images/G. J. Puskar

The chief executive of Uber, Travis Kalinick, on Monday announced an "urgent investigation" into allegations by a former female employee that she had been subject to sexual harassment and sexist treatment at the firm.

Responding to an open statement by Susan Fowler Rigetti containing the claims, Kalanik tweeted: "What's described here is abhorrent [and] against everything we believe in. Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired."

Rigetti, an engineer, has claimed in a blog post that her manager made sexual advances towards her shortly after she joined the company in San Francisco at the end of 2015, and that the company's human resources department had dismissed her complaints because the man was a "high performer."

'You could be the problem'

Rigetti said she was offered the choice of either leaving the team, or staying in her position and possibly receiving a negative assessment by her manager. She alleges that having then chosen to change teams, she was blocked from making headway in the company.

She also relates having been told by the HR department that she might be the problem, not the men she was complaining about. The blog post, entitled "Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber," also gives other examples of what Rigetti claimed was rampant sexism at the company. She wrote that many other women had experienced similar incidents.

Rigetti left Uber after a year and has since worked for a firm that aids business to handle online and mobile payments.

The case is likely to give new fuel to the debate over sexism in male-dominated Silicon Valley.  

tj/msh (AFP, AP)