Former Uber Engineer’s Lawsuit Claims Sexual Harassment

Matt Kallman, an Uber spokesman, said Monday that Uber was “moving in a new direction.” Over the past year, he said, the company has changed how it compensates and evaluates employees, published diversity reports and trained employees on diversity and leadership. He did not directly address any of Ms. Avendaño’s claims, saying Uber would not comment on pending litigation.

Ms. Avendaño’s claims of sexual harassment and a human resources department uninterested or unwilling to curb the problem is reminiscent of issues raised by Susan Fowler, another former Uber engineer, who brought intense scrutiny to the company when she published a blog post about her time at Uber.

Ms. Fowler said that when she reported her direct supervisor for sexually harassing her, management told her that it wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him because he was a high performer and that it was probably an innocent mistake. After her post, the company hired Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general, and his law firm, Covington & Burling, to investigate the claims and assess its workplace. Uber fired 20 employees for sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct based on the report’s findings.

The lawsuit raises questions about Uber’s human resources department, which is led by Liane Hornsey, who joined Uber in 2017, and whether it has done enough to halt hostile working conditions for women at the company. After the Holder report, Uber took the unusual step of bringing on another law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, to investigate certain complaints about human resources.

Uber’s Mr. Kallman said the company took such complaints seriously and worked with outside law firms to “ensure the independence of the investigation.”

Ms. Avendaño said that when she learned from co-workers that the company had decided not to punish the man who sexually harassed Ms. Fowler, she informed her bosses and human resources that they had mishandled the situation and were creating a hostile workplace. She even reported her point of view to Thuan Pham, Uber’s chief technology officer, she said.

She said she was reprimanded for throwing senior officials “under the bus,” because she took the matter directly to Mr. Pham. She said her bosses retaliated by denying her pay increases and career advancement, prompting human resources to tell her shortly before she left the company in June that her salary was “abnormally low.”

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