Uber eX-employee sparks reform of company culture

Uber Technologies now appears to be undergoing a major remodel of its workplace environment, including the dismissal of 20 employees and the departure of CEO, Travis Kalanick, following a self-imposed investigation into the culture of the eight-year old company.  

A fiery blog post by an ex-employee of the popular ride-hailing service was the trigger for the investigation that resulted in the mass firing. Amongst a range of other allegations, the ex-employee raised concerns that reported incidents of sexual harassment and discrimination were being ignored by HR who did not want to disrupt their top performers or harm the financial health of the business.    

Whilst the blog post was heavily critical of a workplace environment that did little to stop sexual harassment and discrimination, the ensuing investigation was far wider and also included investigations into alleged unprofessional behaviour, retaliation, bullying and physical safety.  

This is against the background of Uber’s head of HR stating only three weeks ago that sexual harassment was not an issue within the company, which has since raised legitimate questions about the effectiveness of their internal grievance policies and communication methods.

The matter has received widespread media coverage, no doubt assisted by the numerous other legal issues the company is presently facing, but from a HR perspective, it is a timely reminder that the importance of up-to-date policies and regular training about appropriate workplace behaviour cannot be understated.

At the very least, employers and their HR teams need to have systems in place that allow for:  

  1. The development of policies that reflect and implement the culture the business is trying to achieve and clearly specify the types of workplace behaviour that are accepted and prohibited;

  2. Appropriate avenues of redress for employees to have their concerns addressed;

  3. New employees to be made aware of and understand the workplace culture and the policies that are in place;

  4. Regular refresher training be provided to employees (including management) on the business’ policy on workplace behaviour;

  5. Regular review of the policies themselves to ensure they accurately reflect the culture and values that the business is trying to achieve;

  6. Accurate record keeping of the training provided to employees.

By having these systems in place and putting them into practice, it is much easier to facilitate a dialogue between employees at every level to discuss and address behavioural issues in an appropriate and efficient manner. 

Shane Koelmeyer is a leading workplace relations lawyer and Director at Workplace Law. Workplace Law is a specialist law firm providing employers with legal advice, training and representation in all aspects of workplace relations, employment-related matters and WH&S.

02 9256 7500 | sydney@workplacelaw.com.au

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