NEW YORK — After allegations of sexual harassment and a toxic workplace from a former employee, Uber hired former Attorney General Eric Holder and his law firm to come up with recommendations for changes. The recommendations , which were released Tuesday to employees and to the public, suggest a broad range of changes to the ride-hailing app’s workplace culture.
A summary of the key recommendations follows:
CEO Travis Kalanick told employees he was taking an unspecified leave, during which he’ll work on his leadership skills. Separately, Holder’s firm Covington & Burling said Uber’s board should review Kalanick’s responsibilities and reassign some of them to others. Lawyers said the board should continue its search for a chief operating officer who is “diverse” and has a background in diversity and inclusion. The report also recommends adding more independent directors and replacing its chairman, Uber co-founder Garrett Camp, with an independent chairman. The board currently has eight voting members, three of whom are from within the company. The report also called for the appointment of a senior executive to oversee the implementation of its recommendations.
The report recommends that Uber makes sure its workforce becomes more diverse from the top down. Bernard Coleman, the company’s head of diversity, should report directly to the CEO or chief operating officer, the report said. Coleman should also communicate regularly with employees and address issues of both diversity and inclusion. Women and minorities who are hired must be included and supported.
The law firm is also urging Uber to adopt its version of the “Rooney Rule” for hiring women and underrepresented minorities. The rule, adapted from the NFL, is already in place at other large tech companies, such as Facebook. It means the company must interview at least one woman and one underrepresented minority for key positions. It doesn’t mean they have to be hired, but they must at least be interviewed.
The firm said Uber needs to change its written cultural values to promote positive behavior, inclusion and collaboration. Uber needs to eliminate the values that have justified poor behavior in the past, the report said, like “Let Builders Build,” ”Always Be Hustlin’,” ”Meritocracy and Toe-Stepping” and “Principled Confrontation.” The firm also recommended that Uber adopt flexible work arrangements to help retain employees with children and other outside obligations and move its free catered dinner to an earlier time so employees with families can take advantage of it. That’s a change Uber has already made. A spokesperson said Uber will now offer free dinner at 7 p.m. on weekdays; the dinner time was previously 8:15 p.m.
The report also said Uber should limit the amount of alcohol available at the office and at out-of-office events and needs to strictly prohibit drug use. It said romantic or intimate relationships between employees that report to each other should be prohibited.
The Holder report makes it clear that Uber was not doing enough to protect workers from sexual harassment and retaliation, noting that company policies need to state directly that such conduct is prohibited at the company even if it is not illegal.
In addition, Uber needs to require that managers “immediately” report instances of discrimination, harassment or retaliation, and ensure that the company’s codes of conduct apply to offsite events and conferences, too.
And Uber’s performance review process must change, too, in order to prevent it from being used unfairly and to restore employee trust in the system. The firm recommends continuous feedback — so that the reviews are not a surprise — and let employees set individual goals. Executive compensation should be tied to senior leaders’ ability to uphold values such as ethical business practices, diversity and inclusion.