Uber CEO to take leave; report recommends broad changes

Elizabeth Williams
June 14, 2017

An Uber pick-up point at LaGuardia Airport in NY.

Confirming what has been credible rumor since Sunday, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced Tuesday that he would be taking an indefinite leave of absence from the company he founded to "work on Travis 2.0", and hopefully help the rideshare giant recover from a year of bad press and dwindling love from the public.

- February 2: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quits President Trump's council of business leaders amid mounting pressure from employees and customers over the immigration order.

Ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc. has chosen to unanimously adopt a series of 47 recommendations aimed at repairing its tarnished public image - including an extended leave for controversial CEO Travis Kalanick, the company revealed Tuesday.

That was one of 47 remedial actions the board agreed to undertake following an internal report compiled by former USA attorney general Eric Holder, who had been hired to investigate allegations of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation leveled by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler.

In its section on senior leadership, the report calls for "reallocating" the responsibilities of CEO Travis Kalanick, as well as using regular performance reviews and set metrics to increase the accountability of other senior leaders.

"It was clear that (my manager) 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", Susan Fowler, a former engineer at the company wrote on her blog.

His leave of absence coincides with the release of recommendations from former Attorney General Eric Holder's investigation into the company's workplace culture. That investigation, which was separate from Holder's, checked into 215 complaints; 57 are still under investigation.

They represent the hyper-competitive, take-no-prisoners mentality that has helped the company cripple the taxi industry and become the world's top start-up, valued at $US70 billion. Chief Business Officer Emil Michael, one of Kalanick's key lieutenants, left the company on Monday, according to a source familiar with the situation, a departure that news reports have tied to the Holder investigation.

Kalanick, 40, said he needed to work on his aggressive leadership style.

Like many other tech companies, Uber's employees are overwhelmingly white and male.

Specifically, the recommendations call for adding independent members to the board of directors, including an independent chair.

The move confirmed what has been reported in the media since Sunday, that the 40-year-old co-founder of Uber, a startup now worth 68 billion USA dollars according to some estimates, will leave as recommended by an outside team.

One of the main points of the report involves decentralizing power from Kalanick and giving some responsibilities to other executives. "I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up", he says. Even a few hours before a major company meeting Tuesday, Kalanick had reportedly not made up his mind on what he wanted to do.

'Although it is not realistic to prohibit all romantic and intimate relationships in the workplace, it should be emphasized more generally that with respect to such relationships, Uber will not tolerate any form of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, ' it said. The firm also thought it best to institute an independent leader and/or oversight committee to continue to monitor management in a transparent and efficient manner. Kalanick himself was caught on video in an argument with an Uber driver who voiced concerns over fares. Company values like "toe-stepping", she said, were being changed.

Other reports by VgToday

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