Uber settlement supported by engineer who blogged about bias

Uber Technologies Inc. car service application. (Bloomberg pic)

SAN FRANCISCO: The former Uber Technologies Inc. engineer whose blog post on the treatment of women at the ride-hailing company helped drive out its chief executive said she supports a US$10 million settlement of pay equity and harassment claims filed on behalf of almost 500 employees.

Susan Fowler, whose February 2017 post led to internal investigations and ultimately the departure of Travis Kalanick, said in a court filing Friday that the settlement will help compensate others subject to “illegal conduct” and puts in place a monitoring program “to ensure there is follow-through concerning Uber’s commitment to a new direction.”

“Fowler hopes for the best for Uber’s talented and committed workforce, and particularly the women and persons of colour who continue to work at Uber and make it a better place,” her lawyer wrote in the filing in federal court in Oakland, California.

Fowler, who was named a 2017 “Person of the Year” by Time magazine for breaking the silence on harassment, tweeted this year with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi seeking to end a company policy of forcing female riders to go through arbitration when they complain of assault by their drivers. In May, the company announced it would allow sexual assault and harassment victims to sue in court.

Uber, which denies wrongdoing as part of the settlement, has said the accord is fair and reasonable.

Jahan Sagafi, a lawyer for the women who sued, said Fowler’s statement is consistent with other positive feedback his firm has received about “the substantial payments and strong policy changes made possible by the settlement.”

Fowler said she continues to face harassment on line and via email for speaking out in her post titled “Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber.” She commended the two “brave women” who initiated the class-action suit last year.

She also said that under a May US Supreme Court ruling that bolsters the power of employers to force workers to use individual arbitration instead of class-action lawsuits, women and minorities “would receive nothing at all” if not for the settlement.

The settlement will provide an average of US$11,000 for 487 women and minority workers for alleged pay disparities, plus an additional US$34,000, on average, for 56 women who filed detailed claims of harassment, according to an August court filing.

A hearing on final approval of the settlement is set for Nov 6.

The case is Del Toro Lopez v. Uber Technologies Inc., 4:17-cv-06255, US District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).