10 Things You Need to Know From Eric Holder’s Uber Report

Jun 13, 2017

After months of interviewing employees and workplace reviews, Uber has released the recommendations of an internal investigation about its failings to police reckless behavior within the company.

The investigation, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, began in February after an ex-Uber engineer published a blog post in which she said she had repeatedly complained about sexual harassment and discrimination at the ride-hailing company.

In a 13-page document, Holder outlined his recommendations under four overarching themes: tone at the top, trust, transformation, and accountability. Holder recommended that the company:

  • Review and reallocate Travis Kalanick's responsibilities. "The search for a Chief Operating Officer should address this concern to some extent," the report reads. The COO is to act as a full partner to Kalanick.
  • Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for substantiated complaints of discrimination and harassment, without regard to whether an employee is a “high performer” or a long-term employee.
  • Elevate the visibility of Uber's current head of diversity in order to demonstrate the company's commitment to the issue. The company should also consider adding an employee diversity advisory board.
  • Regularly publish diversity statistics to judge how the company is meeting its goals.
  • Use performance reviews to hold senior leaders accountable. The reviews should include metrics tied to improving diversity, responsiveness to employee complaints, employee satisfaction, and compliance.
  • Restructure the board to include additional independent board seats who can exercise oversight of Uber's management.
  • Require senior leaders at Uber to receive mandatory leadership coaching. Holder also recommended that new or first-time managers receive significant training.
  • Target diverse sources of talent, use blind resume review, and adopt a version of the "Rooney Rule." [Read Fortune's explainer on the Rooney Rule here]
  • Develop clear guidance on appropriate workplace relationships, including making clear that any type of romantic or intimate relationship between individuals in a reporting relationship is prohibited.
  • Audit and review its pay practices, including for compliance with state and federal equal pay laws.

The results were discussed on during a six-hour meeting on Sunday with the tech giant’s board, which unanimously voted to adopt all of Holder’s recommendations. Uber board member Arianna Huffington said in March, "Whatever the investigation finds will be honored by everyone at Uber.”

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In an internal memo to staff, Kalanick announced that he would take a leave of absence from the company following a boating accident last month in which his mother died and his father was injured. He did not specify for how long he would be away from Uber, but he added that he needed to "take some time off the day-to-day to grieve my mother" and to "reflect, to work on myself, and to focus on building out a world-class leadership team." Here is the full email:

Team,

For the last eight years my life has always been about Uber. Recent events have brought home for me that people are more important than work, and that I need to take some time off of the day-to-day to grieve my mother, whom I buried on Friday, to reflect, to work on myself, and to focus on building out a world-class leadership team.

The ultimate responsibility, for where we’ve gotten and how we’ve gotten here rests on my shoulders. There is of course much to be proud of but there is much to improve. For Uber 2.0 to succeed there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team. But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve.

During this interim period, the leadership team, my directs, will be running the company. I will be available as needed for the most strategic decisions, but I will be empowering them to be bold and decisive in order to move the company forward swiftly.

It’s hard to put a timeline on this - it may be shorter or longer than we might expect. Tragically losing a loved one has been difficult for me and I need to properly say my goodbyes. The incredible outpouring of heartfelt notes and condolences from all of you have kept me strong but almost universally they have ended with ‘How can I help?’. My answer is simple. Do your life’s work in service to our mission. That gives me time with family. Put people first, that is my mom’s legacy. And make Uber 2.0 real so that the world can see the inspired work all of you do, and the inspiring people that make Uber great.

See you soon, Travis

Here are some key developments during the weeks leading up to the release of the investigation results:

  • Emil Michael, senior vice president and a close Kalanick ally, has left the company.
  • More than 20 employees were terminated as a result of the internal investigation. The company cited sexual harassment and an array of other behaviors, such as bullying and retaliation, as reasons for the firings.
  • Eric Alexander, Uber’s president of business in the Asia-Pacific region, was fired after it was learned that he obtained the medical records of an Uber passenger who was raped by her driver in India three years ago. Alexander reportedly showed the passenger's medical records to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, senior vice president Emil Michael, and other executives.
  • Uber hired Frances Frei, a professor and an associate dean at Harvard Business School, as its first senior vice president of leadership and strategy.
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