On sexual harassment scandal, Uber takes one step forward, two steps back

They fired one executive for failure to disclose his involvement in a sexual harrassment scandal, but new allegations keep coming.

Uber’s top engineer Amit Singhal was fired for his involvement in a sexual harassment case just five weeks after he was hired. Singhal is Google’s former SVP of software engineering. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

A week after a former engineer blew the lid off Uber’s unchecked sexual harassment problem, the ride-sharing app fired Amit Singhal, a senior vice president of engineering, for failing to disclose his involvement in a sexual harassment scandal at his former employer.

In 2016, Singhal—who was in charge of Uber’s maps and marketplaces divisions—abruptly left Google, where he was the company’s senior vice president software engineering.

In his public statement announcing his departure last year, Singhal said: “From a little boy growing up in the Himalayas dreaming of the Star Trek computer, to an immigrant who came to the United States with two suitcases and not much else, to the person responsible for Search at Google, every turn has enriched me and made me a better person.”

The Indian native continues to deny allegations of his involvement in a “credible” sexual harassment scandal, per Recode’s reporting on Uber’s reasonings for dismissal. Singhal told Recode, “Harassment is unacceptable in any setting. I certainly want everyone to know that I do not condone and have not committed such behavior. In my 20-year career, I’ve never been accused of anything like this before and the decision to leave Google was my own.”

But Uber isn’t taking any chances. The allegations of rampant sexual harassment within the company exposed by former engineer Susan Fowler is the second major public relations disaster in as many months for the embattled car-hailing service, which lost more than 200,000 customers after CEO Travis Kalanick fumbled the company’s response to the Trump administration’s immigration ban.

Kalanick has since launched an investigation in to sexual harassment allegations and fast-tracked diversity efforts. Uber is expected to release its first report this year after years of refusing to do so.

The company’s sexual harassment problems, however, aren’t likely to fade quickly. Just as news broke of Singhal’s departure, a blog post entitled “I am an Uber survivor.” by Amy Vertino surfaced. Vertino, who used a pseudonym to protect her identity, outlined her own harassment experience, fruitless run-ins with human resources, and escalating aggressive sexual behavior. Her account echoed Fowler’s.

This abuse happened not because I didn’t wear heels or because I was directionless. It happened for the sole reason that I am a woman who told a man what she really thought.
My name is not Amy. I am an #ubersurvivor.

The blog post has received over 1,700 likes on Medium and has begun circulating Twitter.

Uber’s sexual harassment scandal is an example of a pervasive problem in the tech industry, and one that is starting to hit companies financially. Two of the ride-hailing app’s early investors, Freada Kapor Klein and Mitch Kapor, penned an open letter to the company demanding it change it’s toxic culture.

“If we believed it was too late for Uber to change, we would not be writing this, but as investors, it is now up to us to call out the inherent conflicts of interest in their current path,” Kapor and Kapor Klein wrote.

“Uber has been here many times before, responding to public exposure of bad behavior by holding an all-hands meeting, apologizing and vowing to change, only to quickly return to aggressive business as usual.”

Maybe not this time.