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Uber internal probe: Diminished role for CEO Travis Kalanick, search for COO & More

Law firm Covington & Burling LLP, that was conducting an internal probe of Uber regarding allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination, has recommended that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s responsibilities should be reviewed and reallocated. It could be handed over to other members of senior management or shared between them and Kalanick. It was also recommended that a Chief Operating Officer (COO) should be identified and appointed at the earliest, and this person will act as “a full partner with the CEO, but focus on day-to-day operations, culture, and institutions within Uber.” The COO’s role will be clearly defined and demarcated from the role Kalanick will henceforth play in the company.

Kalanick, in a separate mail to Uber employees, stated that he will be taking an extended leave of absence.

Uber’s Head of Diversity, Bernard Coleman’s role is also expected to be enhanced, along with the activities and communications of the team working under him. It was also recommended that this position should be renamed Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

Besides ‘Changes to Senior Leadership’, nine other broad recommendations were made by the law firm, with multiple points under each, including:

Compensation packages for senior executives that reward conduct/incentives for behaviour.

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“Experience shows that compensation provides a powerful tool for creating incentives for behavior, and reinforcing a company’s values. Many leading companies have incorporated similar metrics into the compensation packages for senior executives as a way of ensuring that their compensation practices reward conduct that is consistent with the cultural environment that they hope to create. Key members of senior management could be subjected to a probation period during which they must achieve certain minimum levels of performance in order to retain their compensation awards or to continue employment with Uber.”

Effective complaint process for employees to escalate issues, and protocols for escalating complaints.

“Uber should develop and communicate multiple avenues for lodging a complaint, including an employee’s immediate manager or next-level manager, the organization’s Human Resources Business Partner, or the Integrity Helpline. This encourages employees who may otherwise fear retaliation to come forward, knowing that there are multiple avenues they can utilize if they have a concern. Finally, Uber should ensure appropriate processing and tracking of complaints and invest in appropriate Human Resources tools, including complaint tracking software that is robust, secure, and accessible by those who need information on a need-to-know basis.”

“There should be clear guidelines for managers and Human Resources Business Partners so that it is clear to everyone when a complaint should be further investigated and addressed. Uber should also establish protocols that outline when members of the Legal organization should be consulted to ensure that there is consistent treatment across the company and legal risk is being managed appropriately.”

This entire process was kickstarted in February this year, when former Uber engineer, Susan Fowler alleged that she had faced sexual harassment and discrimination during her time at the company.

Read the entire text of the letter with all the recommendations here.

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