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Uber's HR chief resigns, reportedly after discrimination investigation

Uber's HR chief resigns, reportedly after discrimination investigation
Uber has seen a substantial amount of executive turnover in the last year. (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)

Uber's head of human resources resigned Tuesday, reportedly after an investigation into how she had handled racial discrimination allegations at the ride-hailing company. Liane Hornsey’s exit is the latest in a string of departures by high-level Uber executives.

Uber launched an internal investigation after anonymous whistleblowers alleged that Hornsey, the company's chief people officer, had systematically dismissed allegations of racial discrimination, Reuters first reported, which led to her resignation.

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Hornsey and Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi made no mention of the investigation's finding in emails to staff about the resignation. “I know this comes a little out of the blue for some of you, but I have been thinking about this for a while,” Hornsey said. She thanked her colleagues and expressed pride for “our shared ethic of doing what's right for our employees.” Khosrowshahi praised Hornsey in a separate email, writing, “She's accomplished a lot,” and describing her as “incredibly talented, creative, and hard-working. She's been a valuable member of my leadership team.”

Uber declined to comment.

Hornsey began at Uber in 2017, weeks before engineer Susan Fowler published her explosive memo about harassment and discrimination at the ride-sharing company. Hornsey joined Uber from SoftBank, and previously worked in human resources at Google.

Her tenure was immediately consumed by the fallout from Fowler's allegations, revamping the ride-sharing giant's culture and implementing the 47 recommendations made by former Atty. Gen. Eric Holder after an internal investigation. Last October, Hornsey told the Wall Street Journal that Uber was making progress on most of the recommendations; she also described difficulty in finding enough diverse candidates in engineering.

She said the company had implemented practices such as earlier dinner hours and part-time working, and that it had held 200 listening sessions with employees, added women and diversity and inclusion experts to interview panels when hiring engineers, and moved recruiters to seek out diversity candidates. She also recalled that in her first meeting with Khosrowshahi, his last question was: “Liane, how are you taking diversity seriously? How does the organization know you're taking diversity seriously? What are you doing for women, specifically?”

But Hornsey also said that for engineering jobs, it was “bloody hard” to implement the Rooney Rule — a hiring approach that mandates employers interview at least one woman or underrepresented minority for certain positions. And though she said she had thanked Fowler publicly, she said: “I don't know whether there would be any benefit in meeting her.” That sparked several reactions from Fowler on Twitter, who wrote that Hornsey “really, really doesn't like me.”

The resignation follows several high-profile exits at Uber. The executive charged with repairing the company's morale, Bozoma Saint John, left the company last month after serving for one year. She was brought on after a tumultuous year of scandals at Uber that eventually led to the ouster of co-founder and chief executive Travis Kalanick. The company's head of finance and top lawyer were among the officials who resigned last year.

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