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When a Toxic Work Environment Leads to Unchecked Sexual Harassment


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.

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