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Uber will pay $4.4 million to settle a federal probe into sexual harassment and retaliation

Uber has agreed to pay $4.4 million to settle charges of sexual harassment and retaliation brought by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on Wednesday.

The charges stem from an investigation that started in 2017 when Uber found itself embroiled in several major scandals. Most notable were allegations that the company had permitted a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation against individuals who complained about such harassment. Sexual harassment at Uber became a widely discussed issue after Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, published an account of the sexism and sexual harassment she experienced during her time there in February 2017.

The EEOC’s investigation found “reasonable cause” to believe those allegations, which violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under the terms of the settlement, Uber agrees to establish a fund of $4.4 million to compensate anyone who the EEOC determines experienced sexual harassment and / or related retaliation after January 1st, 2014.

The company has also agreed to create a system for identifying employees who have been the subject of more than one harassment complaint and for identifying managers who fail to respond to concerns of sexual harassment in a timely manner, the EEOC says. Uber will update its policies with input from a third-party consultant and continue conducting climate surveys and exit interviews with specific attention to workplace sexual harassment and retaliation. Uber has also agreed to be monitored for three years by an outside party, former EEOC Commissioner Fred Alvarez.

Agency officials said they hope the agreement will empower not just Uber employees, but women throughout the tech sector to speak up against sexism in the workplace. It will ensure that Uber will hold its managers accountable and identify repeat offenders “so that high-performing, superstar harassers are not allowed to continue their behavior,” EEOC San Francisco district director William Tamayo said in a statement.

“We’ve worked hard to ensure that all employees can thrive at Uber by putting fairness and accountability at the heart of who we are and what we do,” Uber general counsel Tony West said in a statement. “I am extremely pleased that we were able to work jointly with the EEOC in continuing to strengthen these efforts.”

Uber called its own investigation into Fowler and others’ allegations of sexual harassment in February 2017, tapping former US Attorney General Eric Holder and Uber board member Arianna Huffington to lead it. That investigation uncovered over 200 reports of inappropriate conduct, like harassment, bias, bullying, discrimination, and retaliation, and resulted in more than 20 employees being fired. Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick was ousted from his position later that year.

But allegations of harassment and assault continue to dog the company. Uber has been sued multiple times over the years by women alleging harassment, assault, and rape by drivers. Earlier this month, Uber released a comprehensive safety report about its US business spanning the full length of 2018 and part of 2017. The report discloses that 3,045 sexual assaults occurred during Uber trips last year. Additionally, Uber says nine people were murdered during Uber rides, and 58 people died in auto-related crashes.

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