Uber faces federal inquiry for reported gender discrimination

As the ride-hailing company tries to clean up after last year's scandals, allegations of inequity still mount.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
3 min read

Uber is under scrutiny for gender discrimination, again. 


Uber has been hit with yet another federal investigation. This one is based on allegations of workplace gender discrimination.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission started investigating the ride-hailing company in August 2017, according to a source familiar with the inquiry. The agency has been looking into allegations centered specifically on gender inequity, such as unfair pay and discrimination.

"We are continually improving as a company and have proactively made a lot of changes in the last 18 months," an Uber spokeswoman said.

The EEOC declined to comment, saying it can't provide information on its investigations until it files a lawsuit, which is typically a last resort. The Wall Street Journal first reported this news.

Uber has been mired in scandals and allegations around gender discrimination over the last year and a half. It began when a former female engineer Susan Fowler wrote a blog post in February 2017 detailing a chaotic workplace environment that OK'd sexual harassment. Shortly after, the company conducted two internal investigations, one of which was led by former US Attorney General Eric Holder. The investigations ended with the firing of more than 20 employees for unethical behavior and the ouster of Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick.

Uber's new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, was brought onboard in September 2017. He was tasked with cleaning up the company's epic mess, which included five other federal investigations. These other inquiries are focused on allegations that Uber reportedly developed illegal software, violated price transparency laws and stole self-driving car technology from Waymo.

Since Khosrowshahi started, he's been working to rein in the startup. The company has initiated several endeavors with aims to create a more equal workplace for women and people of color. It hired its first-ever chief diversity and inclusion officer, Bo Young Lee, in January and has also pledged pay equity for its employees.

Additional changes include "overhauling our performance review process, publishing Diversity & Inclusion reports, and rolling out diversity and leadership trainings to thousands of employees globally," the Uber spokeswoman said.

But Uber's problems around diversity have continued. A former female engineer sued the company in May alleging sexual harassment. And last week, the company's head of human resources, Liane Hornsey, resigned amid allegations of racial discrimination.

Then, on Friday, Uber's chief operating officer, Barney Harford, was accused of making insensitive comments about women and people of color, according to The New York Times. Harford is staying on as COO at Uber but said he'll be working with a coach to "confront my blind spots."

"I have been embarrassed to learn that at times I made comments that made people feel uncomfortable, isolated, or unwelcome. Certainly that was not my intent, but I make no excuses for my behavior," Harford wrote in an email to his team at Uber, according to The New York Times. "Honest feedback given in good faith is something we need more of."

Along with Uber, the EEOC also has open investigations into Intel and Google. In both of those inquiries, the agency is looking into alleged age discrimination at the tech companies.

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