Uber’s female workers ‘degraded’ and sexually harassed: lawsuit

Mercury News—Ethan Baron
May 22, 2018

Former Uber software engineer Ingrid Avendaño repeatedly called attention to illegal discrimination against women in the ride-hailing giant’s workplace, to no avail, according to the law firm representing her in a new lawsuit.

“Each time Avendaño raised concerns regarding unlawful conduct, she was met with Uber’s entrenched disregard for the rights of its women employees and a refusal to take effective steps to prevent harassment,” law firm Outten & Golden said in a statement.

“Worse, she suffered blatant retaliation, including denial of promotions and raises, unwarranted negative performance reviews, and placement on an oppressively demanding on-call schedule that had detrimental effects on her health. She was also threatened with termination.

“Uber’s failure to take effective remedial measures forced her to resign.”

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Avendaño claimed in the suit that when she worked at the San Francisco firm from 2014 to 2017, its culture was “permeated with degrading, marginalizing, discriminatory, and sexually harassing conduct towards women.”

Numerous managers, including high-level leaders, perpetuated and condoned the firm’s culture, the suit alleged.

Avendaño alleged that an engineer repeatedly demeaned women in front of her and other workers, and that HR did nothing when she reported him, according to CNN. That same engineer later told her colleagues that she only had a job at Uber because she had “slept with someone at the company,” according to CNN, which added that the man was fired after she complained again, leading to claimed isolation of Avendaño by male managers and co-workers.

“She also claimed that she was inappropriately touched by a senior software engineer,” CNN reported.

“Avendaño says she endured emotional and physical stress, and was hospitalized as a result of her experience.”

She also alleged that male Uber employees “would openly discuss who they wanted to have sex with and share explicit content in instant messaging, while some made inappropriate comments about her appearance,” according to Reuters.

Avendaño resigned at about the same time as former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who was blamed for failing to combat numerous problems at the company, including rampant sexual harassment of women alleged by another former software engineer, Susan Fowler, who also claimed that the firm’s HR and upper management ignored the problems.

Uber in March agreed to pay a $10 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by two Latina software engineers on behalf of 420 workers. The lawsuit alleged that Uber paid women and minorities in certain jobs less than white or Asian men for equal work, hired them at lower-level positions than appropriate, promoted them more slowly and gave them “systematically biased” performance reviews.

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