• Claudia Oradan

Ethical Issues at Uber - Sexual Harassment - Case Study



This is a case study review about Uber – a global, app based Taxi Company. Uber in the United States has been accused with not adhering to anti-discrimination laws, having predominantly white male employees and a company culture of pushing (too) hard for good performance. Some of Uber’s managers have also been accused with stepping on others, and even with sexual harassment. Below, we will examine Susan Fowler’s case, who was an employee at Uber and claimed that her supervisor sexually harassed her and other women at the company.


Employment Law

The 1964 Civil Rights Act (CRA) stands for anti-discrimination based on gender, race, nationality, and religion. Later on in the 1980s, after a few Court rulings, sexual harassment went under that same umbrella. Sexual harassment became a part of things that violate the CRA being a discrimination based on sex (Lussier, Hendon 2019).


Type of Harassment

Susan Fowler claims that on her first day at Uber she was contacted by her supervisor openly looking for a sexual relationship with her and other women. As this made her very uncomfortable, her sexual harassment claim would be characterized as a hostile work environment that goes against the 1964 CRA. Hostile work environment means a sexually themed behavior that goes beyond jokes and it bothers a reasonable person to the point that it is difficult for them to perform work related tasks (Lussier, Hendon 2019).


Uber’s Actions

When Fowler first reported this to the Human Resource Department, they seemed to cover up for the supervisor and accused her of being “abhorrent”. But as later things blew up, Uber quickly apologised for some of the managers’ actions, had female executives give positive testimonials on how good it is to work for this company, and examine workplace policies and procedures (Lussier, Hendon 2019).


EEOC and Affirmative Action

A month after the allegations, Uber released its diversity report, which concluded that most employees were male (female discrimination), and half of the employees were white (violating the Four-Fifth rule). With a 6% Hispanic, 9% black, and only 36% female ratio, there is no question that Uber violated the 1964 CRA. Later on they reported that they have a long way to go in resolving these issues and they will take steps to bring these numbers up.



Diversity Matters

There are many reasons why diversity matters. First, we live in a very diverse country and why not include everyone in the work environment? Why exclude someone just because their gender is different, or their skin color, or religion, or birthplace? It is not fair. Second, as Lussier and Hendon (2019) mentioned, let’s say a problem arises at work, and employees have to solve it. It is better to have people from different backgrounds look at the problem and come up with different solutions because of their different thinking. Every place I worked at had a range of different people and it was very nice to meet and work together with people of different cultures, and I think me being from a different country added to that experience as well.


Uber is a global company with services in over 70 countries, so for them it is extremely important to be diverse. Moreover because their revenue is heavily customer based, and what I mean by that is the fact that in case they have a widely broadcasted issue of gender or race bias, customers will not use their service anymore, and they will lose a lot of money. Uber executives stated that they are working on bringing in more women and more people of color into tech (Lussier and Hendon, 2019).


(Photo: skillroads.com)


Benefits/Challenges of a Diverse Workforce

The benefits of a diverse workforce at an organization such as Uber are described above, but there exist challenges as well. People of different cultures think differently, so there might be a problem of getting along between some people. Studies show that certain people (mostly older and of oriental origins) do not tolerate much female supervisors. Another challenge could be the sexual harassment problem. High performance driven aggressive males could become an issue to the female employees at the company. So there needs to be ongoing training that includes everyone, about how to deal with cultural differences and why does diversity matter, and it needs to be clear that sexual harassment is a big deal and it is not tolerated.


Legal Provisions of Uber Case

By the response Susan Fowler got from her HR Department, and news articles I have read in the past regarding the #MeToo movement, I believe HR is not the police here. HR’s responsibility when receiving a sexual harassment complaint is to report to higher management, and they will decide what to do. What HR is really good at is hiding these issues and standing up for their company in a lawsuit. Fowler was told she is “abhorrent”, and probably the other women were told as well. And it shouldn’t be this way. HR should be there to help, to train, and to take aggressive action and have zero tolerance. Even if the person accused is very valuable to the company. An organization with good morals doesn’t cover these things up. And nobody gets away with just an apology.


Conclusion

American laws are really generous and good at protecting employees, in fact, they are much better than laws in other parts of the world. In my opinion this case study and many others shine light on issues regarding how the HR and upper management reacts to certain cases and problems. Once the problem gets widely publicized, of course every company will apologize and say that they will take steps to change, but will they really change? Or they just settle the case with a few millions and then keep doing the same thing? And this applies to any field, but mainly to media, business, and IT.


 

Reference

Lussier, R. N., & Hendon, J. R. (2019). Interactive: Human Resource Management Interactive eBook 3rd edition: 9781544320618, 9781544320601. https://www.vitalsource.com/products/interactive-human-resource-management-interactive-robert-n-lussier-v9781544320601