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Uber Fires 20 Employees After Internal Investigation Into Sexual Harassment


Uber is trying to change what some critics have called a bad corporate culture that is tolerant of sexual harassment and other misconduct. Today, the San Francisco company told its staff that about 20 employees have been fired as part of an investigation. NPR's Yuki Noguchi is with us to talk about this. And you can just remind us how this all started.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: The investigations began after a former Uber software engineer last year wrote on her blog about her experience being sexually harassed and detailing her complaints - how her complaints went unheeded. And that post went viral. In response, Uber hired two teams of lawyers to conduct two investigations. The findings from the first one today will feed into a second broader report from former Attorney General Eric Holder due out next week.

MCEVERS: What did this first investigation find?

NOGUCHI: The company isn't commenting. But according to a source familiar with it, there were over 200 allegations of misconduct that were part of this investigation. About half of which were found to have some sort of merit. So 20 employees were fired as a result, including some senior executives. Another 40 or so were reprimanded or referred to training for their past behavior.

MCEVERS: Uber is a big company. It's got 12,000 employees. But why is this firing getting so much attention?

NOGUCHI: Part of the problem is the extent of this misconduct. And Silicon Valley already has a reputation for attracting and catering to male tech talent but not to women. So there's a worry that women are marginalized from the tech world and that a lot of that has to do with the culture in science and technology. So in many ways, Uber is a test case for how serious the whole tech industry is about fixing its gender diversity problems.

Also, Uber has rapidly become a household name. It's hugely successful with investors. But it's also a consumer brand. And consumer brands always have to care very much about their public image. And that's an area where obviously Uber has struggled a great deal recently.

MCEVERS: It hasn't been a good year for Uber in many ways. And do experts think the company is dealing with its workplace problems in the right way?

NOGUCHI: It's hard to say. The company obviously is serious enough to show the public it's trying to address the problem. But there are some skeptics. Two diversity experts who've worked with Uber say they don't think the company is all that serious about changing its culture.

So I think it's the kind of thing that we'll see what the recommendations are from the next report, the Eric Holder report next week, and whether the company really adopts those changes.

MCEVERS: NPR's Yuki Noguchi. Thank you very much.

NOGUCHI: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOUR TET'S "CIRCLING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Science Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. She started covering consumer health in the midst of the pandemic, reporting on everything from vaccination and racial inequities in access to health, to cancer care, obesity and mental health.