By Claire Zillman
June 8, 2017

Earlier this week, it seemed as if Uber was turning a corner, veering away from its macho culture and toward a more inclusive work environment. On Monday, it announced the hiring of academic Frances Frei as SVP of leadership and strategy. On Tuesday, it announced another new female exec, Bozoma Saint John, who’s joining as chief brand officer from Apple Music. It also cleaned house, firing some 20 employees as part of its investigation into 215 claims of misconduct, including complaints of sexism and sexual harassment. The probe followed the viral blog post by ex-engineer Susan Fowler who alleged such pervasive behavior.

But that progress came to a screeching halt yesterday, with a jaw-dropping story first published by Recode. The site reports that a former top Uber executive—Eric Alexander, who worked as president of business in the Asia Pacific—somehow obtained the medical records of a woman who’d been raped by an Uber driver during a ride in India in 2014. (The driver was arrested and later sentenced to life in jail.) Alexander shared the documents with CEO Travis Kalanick and SVP Emil Michael, and all three began to raise questions about the truthfulness of the woman’s story and whether the whole episode was set up by Uber’s prime competitor in India in an attempt at sabotage.

Alexander’s alleged mishandling of the delicate incident was among the 215 claims reported to the two law firms investigating Uber’s mismanagement, according to Recode, but Alexander was not among the employees fired in Tuesday’s purge. No, he was only let go, it seems, after Recode starting asking Uber about his actions. The inevitable fallout of this story will focus on Alexander’s stunning violation of privacy, Uber’s tolerance of it, and what it all means for Kalanick’s future as CEO. Lost will be the woman whose intimate medical history was reportedly passed around Uber’s workplace. Like too many rape survivors whose cases aren’t taken seriously, she’s a victim, yet again.

@clairezillman

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