Uber sets up $6m fund to pay victims of sexual harassment

Uber also agreed to three years of monitoring by a former agency commissioner to ensure that it changes its practices. PHOTO: AP

SAN FRANCISCO (NYTIMES) - In 2017, a former Uber employee wrote a public essay describing how the ride-hailing company had permitted sexual harassment to fester at the workplace.

The revelations led to an outcry over Uber's toxic culture. Federal authorities and others began investigations into the company. More than 20 employees were later fired over their part in the behavior. And the disclosures raised questions about Uber's growth-at-all-costs mentality, resulting in the ouster of Travis Kalanick, a co-founder and then the chief executive.

On Wednesday (Dec 18), Uber resolved one investigation into its workplace culture. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has been examining the company since 2017, said it had "found reasonable cause to believe that Uber permitted a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation against individuals who complained about such harassment."

Uber said it had agreed to a settlement with the agency by establishing a US$4.4 million (S$6 million) fund to pay current and former employees who were sexually harassed at work. It also agreed to three years of monitoring by a former agency commissioner to ensure that it changes its practices.

"This agreement will hopefully empower women in technology to speak up against sexism in the workplace knowing that their voices can yield meaningful change," Ami Sanghvi, a trial lawyer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who consulted on the investigation, said in a statement.

Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, said the company had "worked hard to ensure that all employees can thrive at Uber by putting fairness and accountability at the heart of who we are and what we do" and was working with the commission to improve those efforts.

The settlement showed how Uber was addressing the repercussions of its internal conduct more than two years after the envelope-pushing behavior of its executives and employees first came to light.

The company remains under investigation by the Justice Department over a tool it created to help it evade scrutiny by law enforcement authorities. It is also the subject of a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission over its privacy practices.

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