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Uber is target of gender-inequity investigation

Uber is target of gender-inequity investigation
Uber is working to rehabilitate its reputation after a series of scandals last year. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc. after receiving a complaint alleging gender inequity, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The federal investigation began in August and is focusing on gender issues, such as unfair pay and discrimination problems, the person said Monday. News of the investigation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

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An Uber spokesperson said in a statement Monday that the company has been “continually improving” and has “proactively” made changes in the last 18 months, such as overhauling its performance review process, publishing reports on the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts and providing employee training on diversity and leadership.

A spokeswoman for the EEOC said in an email that the agency could not confirm or deny the existence of investigations, citing confidentiality provisions.

The news comes as Uber works to rehabilitate its reputation after a series of scandals last year — including allegations of a toxic work culture at the company that enabled sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying — that ultimately led to the ousting of Travis Kalanick, Uber’s co-founder and chief executive.

The company brought on former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.’s law firm Covington & Burling in February 2017 to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations of workplace toxicity, which culminated in a report that recommended leadership changes at Uber, increasing the profile of the company’s head of diversity, increasing board oversight and devoting more resources to ensure that promotions and compensation are fair and equitable.

When former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi assumed Uber’s top job in August, he said his mandate was to implement recommendations from the Holder report and rebuild Uber’s culture. The company released an ad this year titled “Moving Forward,” in which Khosrowshahi said it was time for Uber to “move in a new direction” that would begin with “new leadership and a new culture.”

“One of our core values as a company is to always do the right thing,” he says in the video. “And if there are times when we fall short, we commit to being open, taking responsibility for the problem and fixing it.”

But Uber has continued to face headwinds. In October, three Latina engineers sued the company, alleging that it systematically underpays women and other underrepresented groups; a hearing in that case is scheduled for November.

Last week, the company’s head of human resources resigned, reportedly after an investigation into how she handled allegations of racial discrimination. Also last week, the New York Times reported that Uber’s chief operating officer, Barney Harford — who was hired last year to help Uber fix some of its problems — was accused of making racially insensitive remarks. Harford said he would commit to coaching to improve his “blind spots.”

10:15 a.m.: This article was updated with comment from an EEOC spokeswoman and with additional background information.

9:15 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from a person familiar with the matter and an Uber spokesperson and with details about Uber’s ad campaign earlier this year.

This article was originally published at 8:40 a.m.

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