Employee discrimination involves unfair treatment of employees by their employer on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, and disability among other aspects. In the U.S., the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has outlined various aspects that are used to define employee discrimination in the contemporary workplace. The federal agency initiates employee claims and holds the culprits to account for their actions that extended harm to the victims (Brown, 2016). In 2018, a former software engineer who worked for Uber from 2014 to 2017 sued the technological corporation for creating an enabling environment for managers to sexually discriminate female employees. Even though the organization resolved its dispute with the affected employee, it set a bad precedence for female software engineers who expressed their interest to work for the technology firm.
Facts of the Case
Ingrid Avendano, a Latina software engineer sued Uber Technologies Inc. for creating a culture that discriminated women. In the workplace, Avendano stated that the corporation had promoted male dominance that played a critical role in the sexual discrimination of the women who attempted to pursue their career goals and objectives in the corporation. Given that the perpetrators of these heinous acts were in leadership positions within the tech firm, it was impossible to report them to the Human Resource (HR) department because of their ability to influence the outcomes of the engagements in their favor (Griffith, van Esch, & Trittenbach, 2018). When Avendano joined Uber in 2014, she was passionate about creating an idealist product that would solve people’s problems in the global market. She aligned her ambitions and interests with the vision of the corporation to benefit immensely from the window of opportunity created by her position in the developmental stage. However, Avendano claimed that she was often sexually discriminated and treated unfairly by the male managers who utilized their position to accomplish their selfish interests.
Given Avendano’s productivity and accomplishment levels, she rose through the ranks to become a senior developer in the software development team. Despite her influence in the company management, her plight to regard women’s right were met with significant opposition and total negligence from the key decision-makers who were supposed to protect her rights and those of other female employees in the tech firm (Shokoohyar, Sobhani, & Ramezanpour Nargesi, 2020). Following her consistent approach in holding the management to account for the multiple cases of sexual discrimination, Avendano was denied promotional raises and was served with negative performance reviews and subjected to a hostile environment, which affected her health condition. At some point, she was threatened with a termination later, with the hope of subduing her demands that had exposed the organization to an environment where they could not accomplish their desired goals. Due to her continued suffering at the tech firm, Avendano resigned but still experienced unexpected bouts of mental health caused by the friction with her employer.
How the Case was Processed Legally
Through a legal resolution reached between Uber and the EEOC in 2019, the tech firm agreed to issue $4.4 million as compensation who suffered sexual harassment while working for the company. Earlier in 2017, Uber parted with $10 million to compensate three plaintiffs who had sued the corporation on grounds of sexual discrimination. However, Avendano did not participate in the compensation. Despite the numerous lawsuits filed against Uber, the corporation has created a culture of irresponsibility that hinders individuals from discovering their potential (Rosenblat, Levy, Barocas, & Hwang, 2017). Given the nature of claims that have been made in the past, Uber has always opted for out-of-court settlements because of their ability to negotiate with the affected parties without the involvement of the media or any activist groups. In the same vein, the organization has undergone a rigorous transformation aimed at redefining its image and creating an enabling environment where women can pursue their goals and accomplish their professional objectives.
Importantly, the experiences highlighted by Avendano paved way for Susan Fowler who, through her blog, accused the company leadership of failing to create a conducive workspace where women could fit in. In the blog, she recounted various instances that the company failed to act on information against its managers who were involved in the sexual discrimination cases that affected the perspectives of female employees towards work. In 2017, Travis Kalanick resigned as the company CEO because of his inability to establish a people-centered corporate culture that treated both male and female employees equally on the basis of their input towards the realization of company goals and objectives (Becker, 2020). Immediately after his resignation, Uber highlighted its resolve to create a safe space where employees could focus on their goals and identify the repeat patterns of sexual discrimination cases with a special focus on male managers. The piling pressure from the EEOC has compelled Uber to comply with the principles of equal employment and create an enabling environment where individuals can accomplish their desired goals and objectives.
Even though Avendano’s case has never been resolved, subsequent instances amounting to sexual discrimination involving the corporation has been resolved. For instance, in 2018, Uber paid three of its former female employees a collective amount of $10 million as compensation for the ill-fated practices meted on them by their managers. In 2019, the new CEO who took over Kalanick released an additional $4.4 million to a kitty, which would go towards compensating any female employee who has encountered sexual discrimination while working for Uber. Evaluating these outcomes depicts an effort initiated by the EEOC and the criminal justice system to eliminate employee discrimination in the American corporate world (Cunningham-Parmeter, 2016). Although there are still unresolved instances such as Avendano’s case, the involvement of federal agencies such as the EEOC in litigation, provides an opportunity for the authorities to hold culprits responsible for any form of employee discrimination in the world today.
Even though the organization resolved its dispute with the affected employee, it set a bad precedence for female software engineers who expressed their interest to work for the technology firm. In different jurisdictions, the employment irregularity is perceived differently because of its impact on the thought process of individuals and their ability to align their interests towards the realization of desired goals and objectives in the workplace. The U.S. relies on the federal agency, EEOC, to hold organizations accountable for any form of discrimination reported in the workplace. Given the unlimited nature of individuals in their immediate environment, people experience a series of challenges in reporting senior employees for employment discrimination. Uber’s former software engineer, Avendano, experienced numerous challenges ranging from termination threats to negative performance reviews, exposing her to a hostile work environment, which affected her mental health. Even though the corporation resolved the lawsuits through an out-of-court settlement, Uber is yet to establish a corporate culture that supports women in leadership positions.
Becker, P. A. (2020). Work Alienation and Disengagement: Sexual Harassment and Uber. The Palgrave Handbook of Workplace Well-Being, 1-27.
Brown, E. (2016). Fare trade: Reconciling public safety and gender discrimination in single-sex ridesharing. Yale L. & Pol’y Rev., 35, 367.
Cunningham-Parmeter, K. (2016). From Amazon to Uber: Defining employment in the modern economy. BUL Rev., 96, 1673.
Griffith, D. A., van Esch, P., & Trittenbach, M. (2018). Investigating the mediating effect of Uber’s sexual harassment case on its brand: Does it matter? Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 43, 111-118.
Rosenblat, A., Levy, K. E., Barocas, S., & Hwang, T. (2017). Discriminating tastes: Uber’s customer ratings as vehicles for workplace discrimination. Policy & Internet, 9(3), 256-279.
Shokoohyar, S., Sobhani, A., & Ramezanpour Nargesi, S. R. (2020). On the determinants of Uber accessibility and its spatial distribution: Evidence from Uber in Philadelphia. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery, e1362.