Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced his leave of absence on Tuesday
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick took an indefinite leave of absence on Tuesday as a sexual harassment investigation in to the company returned its damning verdict after months of scandal.
In an email to staff, Kalanick said he was taking ‘time off from the day-to-day’, giving no end to the widely anticipated hiatus which comes after a hellish period of professional and personal turmoil for the CEO.
He chalked the decision down to giving himself time to grieve for his mother Bonnie, who died in a boating accident on May 26, but said he would also use the time away to reflect on his leadership in light of the scathing report into Uber‘s cultural problems which stemmed from allegations of rampant sexual harassment.
Shortly after the announcement, board member Arianna Huffington addressed all the company’s staff during an ‘all hands’ meeting and was unfortunately interrupted with a sexist joke made by a male executive.
Billionaire businessman David Bonderman, who is also on the ride sharing company’s board, made the joke about more women employees bringing ‘more talking’, Yahoo reports.
Scroll down to view the full report
Hours after Kalanick announced he was stepping away, David Bonderman (left) was caught in leaked audio making a sexist joke to fellow Uber board member Arianna Huffington (right)
Huffington was speaking to the meeting when she highlighted the company would be adding another female board member, Wan Ling Martello, and spruiking the benefits of that move.
‘There’s a lot of data that shows when there’s one woman on the board, it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board,’ the Huffington Post founder said.
‘Actually what it shows is it’s much likely to be more talking,’ Bonderman interjected.
Agitated by the comment, Huffington fired back: ‘Oh. Come on, David.’
The 74-year-old was quick to apologize after the comment leaked.
‘I want to apologize to my fellow board member for a disrespectful comment that was directed at her during today’s discussion,’ it read.
Travis Kalanick accepted the findings in the report released on Tuesday. Kalanick is pictured on June 26, 2016
AXE THE BRO-CODE, LESS BOOZE AND NO SEX: RESULTS OF THE SCATHING UBER REPORT
The key recommendations made by Eric Holder in order to change the culture of Uber:
Former attorney general Eric Holder spearheaded the investigation
2: One woman and one minority interviewed for every job: The report wants Uber to target historically black universities and recruit more from Hispanic colleges. Most importantly it wants to institute a version of the Rooney Rule which brought in positive discrimination to the National Football League. This would mean that for each position at Uber the firm should interview at least one minority and or woman for the role. The rule is already in place at other large tech companies, such as Facebook. The report also wants managers who promote diversity to be rewarded
3: Boss-employee romance is banned: This is the most cutting of all the recommendations – In addition to zero-tolerance of all harassment and discrimination, Uber should ban all sexual relationships between staff who are in a junior or senior position to one another.
4: Less alcohol at company events: The firm should also reduce the culture of drinking at the firm as well as a zero tolerance policy for illicit drugs and make work events less about booze and more about team building.
5: Axe the bro-code: Current core values enshrined in the workplace such as ‘Always be Hustlin’ and ‘Principled Confrontation’ actually encourage bullying and bad practice says the report and new diverse and inclusive core values are needed instead.
6: Independent Board members who will carry out the changes: And the installation of an Independent Chairperson of the Board who will enact many of the recommendations in the report – pointedly not Kalanick.
7: Remove the culture of fear: Implement Human Resources record keeping which would allow staff to complain about their manager with anonymity and also allow managers to access the non-confidential records of their staff easily too.
8: Diversity not adversity: The report calls for re-training for all members of staff and not just for low level employees. The training should be focused on diversity, inclusion and offered to senior leaders.
9: If you see something, say something: The report said that the culture of fear at the firm led many to not register complaints about bullying, racial or sexual harassment. The report recommends a firm process of multiple senior members of staff to be involved when a complaint is made so that staff feel confident they are being listened to and not ignored.
10: Stop the high turnover: The report says that Uber should try and make a huge effort to keep their current staff. The firm also recommended that Uber adopt flexible work arrangements to help retain employees with children and other outside obligations.
11: The report said Uber should 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.
12: Equal pay for women and minorities.
To read the full report, click here
Kalanick’s leave of absence comes after his mother, Bonnie, died in a boating accident near her home in Pine Flat Lake, California, on May 26. His father, Donald, survived the accident
‘It was inappropriate. I also want to apologize to all Uber employees who were offended by the remark. I deeply regret it.’
Earlier on Tuesday, Kalanick’s statement announcing his leave read: ‘Recent events have brought home to me that people are more important than work and that I need to take some time off of the day-to-day to grieve my mother, whom I buried on Friday, to reflect, to work on myself, and to focus on building out a world-class leadership team,’ he wrote.
His decision, though widely anticipated and called for by industry experts, came after former attorney general Eric Holder returned a damning, 13-page report into Uber’s flaws.
The ex-attorney general and a team at Covington and Burling LLP created the report after being asked to investigate claims made in February by female former employees who alleged rampant sexual harassment at the company.
Kalanick’s departure has been hotly anticipated after a nightmare year for the company
‘I NEED TO WORK ON TRAVIS 2.0’: KALANICK’S FAREWELL EMAIL
For the last eight years my life has always been about Uber. Recent events have brought home for me that people are more important than work, and that I need to take some time off of the day-to-day to grieve my mother, whom I buried on Friday, to reflect, to work on myself, and to focus on building out a world-class leadership team.
The ultimate responsibility, for where we’ve gotten and how we’ve gotten here rests on my shoulders. There is of course much to be proud of but there is much to improve. For Uber 2.0 to succeed there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team. But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve.
During this interim period, the leadership team, my directs, will be running the company. I will be available as needed for the most strategic decisions, but I will be empowering them to be bold and decisive in order to move the company forward swiftly.
It’s hard to put a timeline on this – it may be shorter or longer than we might expect. Tragically losing a loved one has been difficult for me and I need to properly say my goodbyes. The incredible outpouring of heartfelt notes and condolences from all of you have kept me strong but almost universally they have ended with ‘How can I help?’. My answer is simple. Do your life’s work in service to our mission. That gives me time with family. Put people first, that is my mom’s legacy. And make Uber 2.0 real so that the world can see the inspired work all of you do, and the inspiring people that make Uber great.
See you soon,
The two ex-employees also claimed at the time there were also incidents of homophobia and racism, all of which they said took place inside the environment fostered by Kalanick and his circle of trusted top executives.
Holder’s report featured a list of 10 recommendations that could help fix its culture, including a ban on booze at work parties and staff members having sex with each other.
The first recommendation on its list of 10 was: ‘Change senior leadership’ with the added index of ‘Review and Reallocate the responsibilities of Travis Kalanick.’
It then continued to discuss the banning of alcohol, saying: ‘Uber should take steps to provide clear guidelines about acceptable and unacceptable uses of alcohol and strictly prohibit the use of controlled substances, including prohibiting consumption of alcohol during core work hours and prohibiting consumption of non-prescription controlled substances during core work hours, at work events, or at other work-sponsored events.’
On the issue of relationships between workers, it stated: ‘If employees in a reporting relationship find themselves in a romantic or intimate relationship, they must be required to immediately report it so that appropriate action can be taken, including making sure that the individuals are not in any type of reporting relationship (direct or indirect) going forward.
‘Although it is not realistic to prohibit all romantic and intimate relationships in the workplace, it should be emphasized more generally that with respect to such relationships, Uber will not tolerate any form of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.’
It will also implement a version of the NFL’s ‘Rooney Rule’, which will require at least one woman and one minority candidate to be interviewed for a position before it is filled.
The report also stressed the need for a Chief Operating Officer (COO) to share Kalanick’s workload and enforce the recommendations.
Going forward, senior members of staff will be subject to performance reviews which will assess whether they have adequately followed the report’s guidance.
They will have to commit to boosting diversity and encourage employees to give feedback. The suggestion of an Ethics and Cultures Oversight Committee to enforce the changes was also made.
In his letter to staff on Tuesday, Kalanick said he accepted the report’s finding, adding there is ‘much to improve’ at the company.
He also wrote about needing to become a better leader before he can return to ‘Uber 2.0’.
‘If we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve,’ the letter read.
‘During this interim period, the leadership team, my directs, will be running the company.
The investigation was prompted by allegations of sexual harassment made by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler
‘I will be available as needed for the most strategic decisions, but I will be empowering them to be bold and decisive in order to move the company forward swiftly.
‘It’s hard to put a timeline on this – it may be shorter or longer than we might expect.
‘Tragically losing a loved one has been difficult for me and I need to properly say my goodbyes.
‘The incredible outpouring of heartfelt notes and condolences from all of you have kept me strong but almost universally they have ended with ‘How can I help?’.
‘My answer is simple. Do your life’s work in service to our mission. That gives me time with family. Put people first, that is my mom’s legacy. And make Uber 2.0 real so that the world can see the inspired work all of you do, and the inspiring people that make Uber great.’
The report was unanimously welcomed by its board.
The former employee who made the allegations against the company in February that prompted the investigation is Susan Fowler.
Fowler wrote a scathing blog post about her experience with the company, and similar allegations were echoed by other former staff members who bemoaned Uber’s ‘systemic sexism problem’.
Emil Michael, Uber’s SVP of Business, (left) stepped down on Monday. Amit Singhal, (right) a software engineer, was told to resign earlier this year after failing to disclose a sexual harassment allegation from his previous job at Google
KALANICK IN TURMOIL: A TIMELINE
Kalanick was filmed arguing and yelling ‘bulls***’ at an Uber driver in February
February 19 2017: Susan Fowler, a former engineer for the company, pens a scathing blog post alleging widespread sexual harassment
February 20: Uber says it will investigate Fowler’s claims
February 21: Former attorney general Eric Holder is tasked with leading probe
February 27: Another former employee comes forward with similar accusations, adding claims of homophobia and racism to her list of grievances in a blog post for Medium
February 28: Kalanick issues a groveling apology after a video surfaces of him having a fight with an Uber driver on Super Bowl Sunday
March 27: The CEO’s former girlfriend describes how he and his friends drafted in models for parties and visited escort bars in South Korea
April 27: Arianna Huffington joins Uber’s Board of Directors and vows to leave ‘no stone unturned’ in investigation
May 26: Kalanick’s mother Bonnie dies in a boating accident near her home in Pine Flat Lake, California
June 1: Uber posts $708million loss as it announces that its head of finance, Gautam Gupta, has left the company
June 6: Twenty employees are fired in response to Holder’s investigation
June 11: Rumors emerge Kalanick is being urged by the board of directors to take a leave of absence
June 12: Uber’s SVP of Business, Emil Michael, steps down
June 13: Kalanick announces he is taking time off