News

Uber Sounds Like a Complete Mess Right Now

Uber is no stranger to courting controversy, but the last week has been one of the most contentious in the ride-share conglomerate’s history.

Since Susan Fowler, an engineer who left the company, published a damning blogpost describing a toxic workplace culture, Uber has been on the ropes, defending itself from a litany of employees who have corroborated Fowler’s claims. While the grievances among Uber employees are manifold, Fowler wrote about a culture of misogyny and rampant sexism taking place at the company. On her first week on the job, Fowler says she was propositioned for sex by her manager. She reported the man to the company’s Human Resources department expecting a reasonable course of action, but the offender was only given “a warning and a stern talking-to.” Instances like these occurred frequently, but were routinely sidestepped by HR and ignored by company executives, who gave a pass to “high performers” who flouted workplace rules.

In light of Fowler’s blogpost, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has ordered an “urgent investigation,” summoning board member Arianna Huffington and former attorney general Eric Holder to probe the accusations.

Reporting from The New York Times paints a broader picture of Uber’s corporate culture -- which seems to abound with egocentric bros eager to climb the company ladder. There’s more accusations of gropings -- and stories of employees snorting cocaine in bathrooms during private company events. At one particularly rowdy all-hands meeting in Las Vegas in 2015, one manager stole a shuttle bus and paraded it around town with several other employees. The confluence of frat-party shenanigans at Uber paints it as the Animal House of Silicon Valley, only a bit more sinister and prone to backstabbing and retribution.

But wait, there’s more! Uber has been ensnared in a glut of legal battles in recent years, and yet another alleging inadequate pay has been filed against the company by a driver in North Carolina. The company’s expansion has left a trail of lawsuits filed by drivers in several countries, often regarding employee pay and the implementation of a customer tipping policy. Uber drivers in New York City have mounted a push to initiate a mandatory tipping function, which only seems to be gathering steam.

All of this is to say nothing of the #DeleteUber campaign, which snowballed on social media last month in conjunction with President Trump’s travel ban. While protesters swarmed major airports to contest the executive order, cab drivers in New York City stopped servicing John F. Kennedy airport. Uber, on the other hand, continued service and even turned off surge pricing, sparking the ire of critics who accused the company of crossing a picket line.

Anyway, if none of this sits well with you, Uber’s biggest competitor, Lyft, is expanding to 54 new cities.

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Vice. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.