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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Will Take an Indefinite Leave of Absence

19 June 2017

The Chief Executive Officer of Uber, Travis Kalanick, on Tuesday said he was taking an indefinite amount of time off from the company, which is now in the throes of controversy over its hostile work culture, in particular for women.

Kalanick's announcement comes on the same day Uber will discuss the findings from a probe into the company conducted by former attorney general Eric Holder, whose law firm Covington & Burling LLP was brought in to examine the company's culture amidst allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment.

The former Uber engineer whose shocking account of her experience of sexism and harassment at the company has a message for other would-be whistleblowers.

While the Miami letter stated sex between employees was prohibited on the trip if they were in the same chain of command, the Holder recommendations takes it one step further, placing limits on relationships between an employee and his or her direct supervisor.

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Holder also suggests that Uber change its written cultural values to promote positive behaviour, inclusion and collaboration. Created to curb inappropriate behavior, the changes include guidelines for romantic relationships between employees (including a ban on relationships between managers and their team members), policies on alcohol and drug use, and a clearer promotion process for high-performing workers.

The report recommends the board add an independent chairperson to serve as a "check on Uber's management" and make sure the board is taking the recommendations seriously. The company's board of directors unanimously approved the proposed changes on Sunday. That makes him the most high-profile executive departure during Uber's ongoing crises. Additionally, five were reprimanded with final warnings, and two staff members were offered more training.

Fowler was less than impressed by the recommendations, describing it in a tweet as "all optics".

Uber has released a 13-page document listing recommendations on how it should change its operations, which was put together as part of a sexual harassment investigation which also covered other workplace misdemeanours.

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The company has faced concerns about its culture since Fowler's post.

Kalanick has been criticized for his management styles, and for allowing Uber's corporate culture to harbor some abusive behaviors. In January, Kalanick dropped out of President Trumps economic advisory group before its first meeting after protests outside the company's headquarters, employee dissent, and a #DeleteUber backlash that inspired about 200,000 users to delete their accounts.

Uber has been under a seemingly never-ending siege of bad press for quite some time now, including revelations that an Uber executive allegedly retrieved and shared the medical records of a passenger who accused her Uber driver of rape. He and his allies from Uber's early days are said to dominate the board's voting power. He admitted afterwards that he needed to "grow up" and get "leadership help". Women and minorities who are hired must be included and supported.

Kalanick said he would be working on a team that could lead "Uber 2.0". But much of that leadership team has left or been pushed out.

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