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Top Uber exec resigns over unresolved discrimination complaints

In another shakeup for Uber Technologies, Inc., the company's chief people officer resigned following an investigation into whether she handled discrimination complaints properly. An anonymous group of whistleblowers has accused the executive of systematically ignoring or dismissing internal discrimination complaints, especially those involving race.

The female executive had been among the company's top spokespeople on discrimination and diversity issues. She had held the position of chief people officer, or head of human resources, for 18 months.

About a year ago, Uber was hit by a widespread sexual harassment and gender discrimination scandal that triggered an investigation by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Ultimately, that investigation led to Uber's founder and original CEO resigning.

In March, the company agreed to settle a proposed discrimination class action for $10 million. The suit was brought on behalf of some 400 women and minorities. One of those women left the class action to pursue gender and race discrimination separately.

The chief people officer left without explanation, even as Uber's CEO Dara Khosrowshahi praised her as "incredibly talented, creative and hard-working."

Whistleblower accusations

The whistleblowers have made accusations against the executive specifically and also against the human resources department generally. For example, the whistleblowers claim the executive made derogatory comments and used discriminatory language against another executive, the global head of diversity and inclusion. They also say she threatened another executive, who subsequently left the company.

These latest allegations claim that, when discrimination complaints were left on Uber's anonymous tip line, they were often ignored or simply dismissed -- especially when they involved race issues.

In a May 15 email seen by Reuters, investigators from a law firm hired by Uber told employees that some of these allegations were substantiated, but they did not specify which ones.

However, they did say that another anonymous employee had made "allegations that appear to relate in some ways" and that they were initiating a new investigation.

Although the former chief people officer's departure is unexplained, it could be part of an effort by Uber to address seemingly systemic issues.

Action must be taken

Whatever is behind the happenings at Uber, these events highlight how important it is for companies to take an active stance when responding to discrimination and harassment complaints. It's far too common for such complaints to be dismissed, perhaps in an effort to stave off unfavorable publicity. It's also far too common for employees to suffer retaliation for filing such complaints.

If you're experiencing discrimination or harassment at work and aren't sure your complaint will be well received, talk to an employment law attorney. A lawyer can protect your rights while helping you communicate your concerns effectively.

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