When a Toxic Work Environment Leads to Unchecked Sexual Harassment
What we can learn from Uber
As you may have heard, a former Uber employee recently wrote a scathing
blog post about the rampant sexual harassment that allegedly occurred
while she worked for the company.
Because Uber is such a high-profile company, the woman’s allegations
have led to a massive shakeup within the upper ranks of the organization.
Unfortunately, though, what supposedly happened at Uber isn’t all
that unusual. The only difference is that most companies with toxic work
environments manage to operate outside the spotlight.
Let’s take a look at what allegedly transpired at Uber and then talk
about what it means to you.
High performers were above the rules
Engineer Susan Fowler claims that she was sexually harassed on her very
first day with her new team at Uber, when her boss propositioned her over
instant message. Fowler took screen shots of the interaction and forwarded
them to human resources.
She claims that she was told the manager couldn’t be severely reprimanded
because he was a high performer and it was his first offense. Fowler says
she was told she could move to another team, which she viewed as less-desirable,
or stay on the team and possibly receive a poor performance review from
the manager who harassed her.
Fowler decided to move to another team. She claims that she later found
out multiple other women had complained about the same manager as well.
After a few months on the new team, Fowler requested a transfer. Because
several of her counterparts had received transfers, she didn’t anticipate
any problems with the request. However, she was told that she wasn’t
eligible for a transfer because of supposed undocumented performance problems.
Fowler claims that she later discovered that her manager had been stonewalling
her in order to retain female engineers on his team.
Several more strange incidents transpired, which Fowler claims repeatedly
demonstrated the company’s anti-woman culture. For example, all
the men on Fowler’s team were rewarded with leather jackets after
hitting a key goal. The female employees were allegedly told that their
jackets were too expensive to justify the purchase.
Fowler continued to report incidents to HR. After she reported her boss’s
supervisor over the leather jacket incident, she claims that she was told
she’d be fired if she didn’t stop complaining.
Not long after that, she found a new job.
Blame the victim
As this story demonstrates, some companies are hesitant to reprimand high
performers. They may believe that it’s easier to put the blame elsewhere—like
on the victim—so the company can still enjoy the benefits of the
high performer’s work.
However, that’s no excuse. Federal law is very clear that sexual
harassment on the job is unlawful.
Beyond that, people who complain about sexual harassment or discrimination
are protected from retaliation. That means that they cannot be fired,
demoted, moved to a less-desirable shift or location, or have any other
action taken against them that might negatively affect the terms and conditions
of their employment.
Contact us now for a consultation
If you believe that you have been sexually harassed or discriminated against
and your company has failed to address your concerns, it’s a good
idea to speak to an attorney.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.