Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber


  • area_can

    After the first couple of weeks of training, I chose to join the team that worked on my area of expertise, and this is where things started getting weird. On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn't. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR.
    ...
    When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man's first offense, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he "was a high performer" (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn't feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.
    ...
    Over the next few months, I began to meet more women engineers in the company. As I got to know them, and heard their stories, I was surprised that some of them had stories similar to my own. Some of the women even had stories about reporting the exact same manager I had reported, and had reported inappropriate interactions with him long before I had even joined the company. It became obvious that both HR and management had been lying about this being "his first offense", and it certainly wasn't his last. Within a few months, he was reported once again for inappropriate behavior, and those who reported him were told it was still his "first offense".
    ...
    I asked what my performance problem was, and they didn't give me an answer. At first they said I wasn't being technical enough, so I pointed out that they were the ones who had given me my OKRs, and if they wanted to see different work from me then they should give me the kind of work they wanted to see - they then backed down and stopped saying that this was the problem. I kept pushing, until finally I was told that "performance problems aren't always something that has to do with work, but sometimes can be about things outside of work or your personal life."

    There's a lot more to read, and I strongly recommend reading the rest of the post. Here's one final WTF:

    Less than a week after this absurd meeting, my manager scheduled a 1:1 with me, and told me we needed to have a difficult conversation. He told me I was on very thin ice for reporting his manager to HR. California is an at-will employment state, he said, which means we can fire you if you ever do this again. I told him that was illegal, and he replied that he had been a manager for a long time, he knew what was illegal, and threatening to fire me for reporting things to HR was not illegal. I reported his threat immediately after the meeting to both HR and to the CTO: they both admitted that this was illegal, but none of them did anything.


  • area_can

    Now here's the rub: Uber offered me an internship. Granted, it's only four months, but I wouldn't work for oracle so...



  • I'd wait until some kind of response from the other side before taking stances.

    But since this woman actually seems to be more than a diversity hire social activist (she wrote this book), and Uber is widely regarded as a cesspool, I deem this report credible.


  • Impossible Mission - B

    Uber is a sleazy company run by sleazebags. What else is new?


  • area_can

    @cartman82 apparently they're going to investigate


  • Impossible Mission - B

    I forwarded this absurd chain of emails to HR, and they requested to meet with me shortly after. ... Our meeting ended with her berating me about keeping email records of things, and told me it was unprofessional to report things via email to HR.

    Keeping an actual paper trail as evidence of a problem, keeping it from being "your word against their word" is unprofessional?



  • I assume the reason she hasn't sued yet is lack of funds for a lawyer. If she has kept records of everything as she says, a competent lawyer could have a field day with this case.



  • @masonwheeler said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    I forwarded this absurd chain of emails to HR, and they requested to meet with me shortly after. ... Our meeting ended with her berating me about keeping email records of things, and told me it was unprofessional to report things via email to HR.

    Keeping an actual paper trail as evidence of a problem, keeping it from being "your word against their word" is unprofessional?

    It prevents them from sweeping the problem under the rug. Yeah, it's a red flag.



  • @Khudzlin said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    I assume the reason she hasn't sued yet is lack of funds for a lawyer. If she has kept records of everything as she says, a competent lawyer could have a field day with this case.

    Another good reason would be if you'd prefer to spend your 30-ies tinkering with technology and enjoying your life, instead of crying in courtrooms and dealing with identity politics maelstrom this would create.


  • :belt_onion:

    @cartman82 Eh, dunno man, if I pretty much knew I'd win because I had good enough evidence, I'd probably go for it. Not for my own profit, but if I could fuck them over before they can fuck over more of their employees.

    I mean, yes, publishing stuff gets them under scrutiny, but it's still more viable it will just end up as another shitflinging session when you look at it from the outside. A court ruling carries more weight.


  • mod

    @Onyx It'd be awful hard to get hired by any company that's worried about lawsuits if you previously sued an employer, and sexual harassment is one of those things many people feel is so open-ended you can make a case in any environment.


  • :belt_onion:

    @Yamikuronue Well, I mean, I'm assuming that the case is as clear-cut as it's stated in the article. In which case, it's obviously not open-ended in this instance. Though my focus here was more on the whole "you're not allowed to complain" part, because I agree that the sexual harassment part can be argued to be a grey area (for example, I would just decline and call it done, unless there was some coercion involved which wasn't stated).

    And, I mean, I'd have even more of a problem with them getting away scott-free than having a bit more trouble getting another job...


  • mod

    @Onyx I mean, me too, but I'm not going to shame anyone who makes the opposite trade-off and values their ability to get employment over revenge.


  • :belt_onion:

    @Yamikuronue Not my intention here, just talking on principle.


  • Impossible Mission - B

    @Onyx said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    I agree that the sexual harassment part can be argued to be a grey area (for example, I would just decline and call it done, unless there was some coercion involved which wasn't stated).

    Did you see the part about how this would impact her performance reviews?



  • @masonwheeler
    Yeah, that was super weird. "Well, this is his first offense, so we're not going to do much to him... oh, and you can choose to transfer to another team, but if you decide not to, you might get worse than expected performance reviews. And since we gave you the choice of transferring, it totally won't be him retaliating for you reporting the sexual harassment if he gives you a negative review."

    :wtf:

    Apparently their HR manager has a name that rhymes with Batwood.


  • :belt_onion:

    @masonwheeler As I read it, that was because she reported him, not him saying that he'll dock her on performance if she rejects him. This is the part where I'd sue the shit out of them if I had evidence regardless of who made the threat and whether or not my initial complaint was deemed to be legitimate.

    The sexual harassment part is where you could potentially argue whether she was in the right. I don't know the laws enough to go from that angle, nor would I, personally, consider a single email a problem. If it went past that, yeah, sure, I'd complain as well.



  • @bb36e said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    "performance problems aren't always something that has to do with work, but sometimes can be about things outside of work or your personal life."

    What does that even mean? How can you even have things "outside of work or your personal life" regarding you? As far as I'm concerned, literally everything is divided into "work" and "personal life" (i.e. "not work").


  • mod

    @Maciejasjmj I parsed the sentence as "can sometimes be about (things outside of work || your personal life)", which makes sense but also is blatantly terrible


  • sockdevs

    It should really be

    but sometimes can be about things outside of work, or your personal life.


    Filed under: Commas rule


  • :belt_onion:

    @RaceProUK said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    Filed under: Commas rule

    I am contractually obligated to post this:

    Rimmer's Comma Colon speach – 00:23
    — Charles Roddy


  • sockdevs

    @Onyx said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    I am contractually obligated to post this

    As I am contractually obliged to upvote it :D



  • @Onyx said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    @Yamikuronue Well, I mean, I'm assuming that the case is as clear-cut as it's stated in the article.

    Is it? It seems like they eventually fired the creep anyway.

    From the author's perspective it probably felt like it took too much time, but Uber could argue (truthfully or not) they had to build a case against the guy before they could fire him.


  • :belt_onion:

    @cartman82 could be, I admit I skimmed, was at work at the time so...



  • @cartman82 I'm inclined to agree. I use Lyft at least once weekly because I can't drive a car and I need it for groceries. I've used Uber only rarely, when Lyft drivers aren't available. I also enjoy talking to the drivers and I've met a lot of drivers who work for both companies that hate Uber; almost all of them qualified that they also drive for Uber with "... but I'm probably going to stop soon." Over the many rides, I've accrued some key information about Uber that I wouldn't have otherwise noticed.

    You can't tip drivers with the Uber app. I tip my drivers every single time in Lyft, and I remembered the first time I started the Uber app it asked me how much I wanted to tip, so this was a surprise for me. However, the Uber prompt for tip amount is actually there to mislead you; it only tips drivers working for Uber's taxi service, which has pretty limited operational areas. In fact, there is no way to tip normal Uber drivers. See also Uber's help article on this: https://help.uber.com/h/8459a496-5ed2-4f9d-b15c-d8afd9ccf34f

    Uber touts that drivers can get a guaranteed hourly wage, but in reality, it is only for a couple of hours per day, at most, and in special areas (the driver who explained this to me actually pulled out his color-coded map of the metropolitan area; these "guaranteed hourly wages" were jobs such as "serve lifts to folks in the purple zone from 7 AM to 9 AM," essentially very short term contracts to work as a regular cab driver).

    Between these two things and what I've seen Uber lobby for and get trouble with in the news, this is pretty much exactly the type of treatment I would expect them to give to their employees.



  • @CrazyEyes yeah, but as a customer, I really REALLY hate giving tips. So.... Go team Uber! Put those women in their place!


  • Impossible Mission - B

    @CrazyEyes Uber sounds like a good idea, when you hear the elevator pitch version. But as they say, the devil is in the details, and the more details you hear about how they actually operate, the more demonic they end up looking...



  • @CrazyEyes said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    You can't tip drivers with the Uber app

    @CrazyEyes said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    In fact, there is no way to tip normal Uber drivers.

    What stops you giving them cash?



  • @loopback0 Not having enough on you?


  • :belt_onion:

    @masonwheeler said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    I forwarded this absurd chain of emails to HR, and they requested to meet with me shortly after. ... Our meeting ended with her berating me about keeping email records of things, and told me it was unprofessional to report things via email to HR.

    Keeping an actual paper trail as evidence of a problem, keeping it from being "your word against their word" is unprofessional?

    I learned something long, long ago. In any company, HR is the most completely useless department, to the point where it's actually harmful to the company.

    I've been very fortunate and have always worked for people who treated me well. But any interaction I've ever had with an HR person has left me shaking my head and thinking "what the fucking fuck".

    Every time a company gets sued for discrimination or harassment, it's because the problem was reported to HR and ignored. You would think someone would have figured this out by now, but I have yet to meet an HR person who isn't a completely incompetent buffoon.

    Seriously, where the fuck do they find these people?


  • sockdevs

    @El_Heffe said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    I have yet to meet an HR person who isn't a completely incompetent buffoon

    I've met a competent HR person. Unfortunately, she was made redundant in January.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @El_Heffe said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    HR is the most completely useless department

    We've been debating at work whether to report our HR department to (the equivalent of) the CEO for gross incompetence. It's just little things like not sending out letters of employment to people because they haven't got the date of birth for them, despite the person being actually currently employed by us (on an expiring fixed term contract) and it actually being against explicit policy for us to go and ask. We suspect that HR aren't even competent enough to fire themselves.

    They manage to make IT look good not quite so crushing awful.



  • @cartman82 said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    From the author's perspective it probably felt like it took too much time, but Uber could argue (truthfully or not) they had to build a case against the guy before they could fire him.

    That would be a very weak argument, given that they told her that, California being an at-will employment state, they could fire her at any time for any reason. (but of course we know that was bullshit)

    To me, the most shocking aspect of the case is how much HR lied to her. Either they don't know the law or they utterly disregard it. In any case, if she had a record of her meetings with HR she could probably build a good case for getting the whole HR department fired.



  • @loopback0 The fact that I don't want to carry cash just to tip drivers. Tipping is supposed to be convenient. In the past, people always had cash, so tipping by cash was convenient. Now, that is no longer the case. What would you rather do, use Lyft and not have to carry cash, or use Uber and always have to carry cash that you don't use for anything else?



  • @CrazyEyes So there is a way, it's just inconvenient.

    I don't have an overwhelming desire to tip taxi drivers for doing their job, so I'd go with whichever is most convenient to me.



  • @CrazyEyes I reread your post about tipping. Are you saying that tips are pooled and only some drivers get a share? Or that Uber pockets the tips intended for unqualified drivers?


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @loopback0 said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    @CrazyEyes So there is a way, it's just convenient.

    I don't have an overwhelming desire to tip taxi drivers for doing their job, so I'd go with whichever is most convenient to me.

    See again US vs UK tipping practices, where in the US, not giving a tip is a sign that they done screwed up. Not something I'm a huge fan of, but that's a thing.



  • @bb36e said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    Now here's the rub: Uber offered me an internship

    Don't say "rub" around that manager.


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    One of the comments:

    SG:

    Stop being the typical Indian women who writes until there is nothing left. We want to know what you are saying in a quick manner, we have other things to do!

    :wtf:


  • sockdevs

    @Dreikin The only photo I saw on that site is of three perfectly charming Caucasian women (presumably one of them is the blog writer), so yeah, :wtf:



  • @Dreikin said in Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber:

    One of the comments:

    SG:

    Stop being the typical Indian women who writes until there is nothing left. We want to know what you are saying in a quick manner, we have other things to do!

    :wtf:

    g
    A week ago

    link to Production-Ready Microservices?

    Looks like someone hasn't read their job description too well and is now getting a bit desperate for teh codez...


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