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Ingrid Avendaño, a software engineer who previously worked for Uber from 2014 to 2017, filed a lawsuit against the company Monday. Avendaño said that during her time working for the ride-share giant, she “experienced a male-dominated work culture, permeated with degrading, marginalizing, discriminatory, and sexually harassing conduct towards women.”
Amongst other examples given to support her case, Avendaño referenced a male Uber employee, who publicly declared at a company recruiting event that “Uber is the type of company where women can sleep their way to the top.” She later found out that same man had started a “false and offensive rumor” that Avendaño had slept with someone at the company. After reporting harassing behavior twice to Uber HR, Avendaño says she was then “isolated and ignored by many male Uber managers and other employees.”
Avendaño also alleges that a male senior software engineer inappropriately touched her during a company retreat, along with other inappropriate sexual advances. Avendaño also referenced inappropriate remarks that were communicated via the company’s internal messaging system. By 2015, the emotional distress of the hostile work environment led Avendaño to begin suffering panic attacks.
Avendaño also said that, as a result of her HR complaints, she was denied promotions and raises commensurate with her role and responsibilities, and was given long hours as the on-call engineer in retaliation.
As the situation continued to worsen, Avendaño took a two-month leave of absence for “mental and physical symptoms of extreme anxiety” in April 2016.
Avendaño is hardly the first full-time Uber employee to speak up about rampant sexual harassment, discrimination and even assault that has been suppressed by the company. In February 2017, Avendaño’s colleague, software engineer Susan Fowler, penned a blog post “reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber,”where she listed a laundry list of HR violations that not only were tolerated, but actively covered up within the company. The blog post went viral overnight, forcing Uber to publicly address the situation. Fowler’s allegations resulted in an internal investigation, unearthed a slew of company scandals, led to multiple employees being fired, and contributed to the resignation of then-CEO Travis Kalanick.
The timing of Avendaño’s lawsuit comes just a few scant days after Uber terminated its forced-arbitration policy for passengers who have allegedly been sexually harassed or assaulted by the company’s drivers. The forced-arbitration policy, buried deep in the fine print for users of the app, previously required all passenger claims to be addressed behind mandatory, closed-door arbitration, which kept all legal proceedings confidential. The company also overturned a policy that all victims of sexual harassment and assault had to sign non-disclosure agreements upon settling their claims.
“We have learned it’s important to give sexual assault and harassment survivors control of how they pursue their claims,” Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer Uber, said in a statement on the company website.
Featured photo by JasonDoiy / Getty Images.
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