The sexist workplace culture at Uber Technologies Inc. starts from the top down, according to a recently leaked internal email.
In 2013, after the ride-hailing company rolled out its 50th global city, it was time to celebrate at the Shore Club in Miami, Fla. But before the festivities, CEO Travis Kalanick decided to establish employee sex rules for the celebration.
In the email obtained by Recode last week, Kalanick sent a memo to the then 400 employees at the company with the subject line: “URGENT, URGENT – READ THIS NOW OR ELSE!!!!!”
In his list of “Don’ts,” Kalanick included fornication guidelines:
“Do not have sex with another employee UNLESS a) you have asked that person for that privilege and they have responded with an emphatic ‘YES! I will have sex with you’ AND b) the two (or more) of you do not work in the same chain of command. Yes, that means that Travis will be celibate on this trip. #CEOLife #FML.”
FML is slang for “F**k my life.”
He also advised that there would be a $200 “puke charge” and offered “don’ts” about practices like drug use. And, he told employees not to talk to the press.
“Have a great f**king time. This is a celebration! We’ve all earned it,” he wrote.
Some executives thought Kalanick’s tone was too careless, and he was advised not to send the email.
“Some worried that building a global public company required a more mature tone from the CEO,” according to Recode.
“But sources said Kalanick was proud of his letter to the team and spoke about it often.”
With Kalanick at the helm, inappropriate behavior by management has led to volatile working conditions.
In February, former engineer Susan Fowler claimed that her manager sexually harassed her when she worked at the company.
Fowler revealed in a blog post that when she reported the offense to human resources officials and management, they declined to punish the alleged offender because he “was a high performer” and this was his “first offense.”
She also said that after speaking with other female employees, she realized that both HR and management had been lying about this being the manager’s “first offense.”
As a result of Fowler’s public complaints, the company began a wide-range investigation into sexism and sexual harassment.
Ed Baker, the vice president of product and growth, resigned in March after more than three years at the company.
In an email to employees explaining his resignation Baker said, “I have always wanted to apply my experience in technology and growth to the public sector. And now seems like the right moment to get involved.”
However, Baker was seen at the Miami event “making out” with an employee, which was witnessed by other employees, according to sources that informed board member Ariana Huffington. Last year, Huffington was the first woman to join Uber’s board since it was founded in 2009. For seven years, the company did not have a woman on its board.
In regard to Baker’s behavior, “there was no suggestion of any sexual harassment on his part and the encounter was apparently consensual,” according to CNBC.
He perhaps felt comfortable in his actions as they were in accordance with the guidelines in the “Miami memo.” Recode reports that Kalanick actually sent the memo again “the next year when there were 1,800 employees at Uber.”
Last week, Uber announced it had fired more than 20 employees following a report by law firm Perkins Coie.
Lack of diversity was always at the core of Uber’s problems.
Perkins Coie investigated 215 staff complaints, the majority from employees at its headquarters in San Francisco, going back as far as 2012, Uber said, taking action in 58 cases and no action on 100 more.
According to Reuters, Uber said that of the claims, 54 were related to discrimination, 47 to sexual harassment, 45 to unprofessional behavior, 33 to bullying and 36 to other things. The law firm has been working in parallel with a broader investigation by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
At a meeting Sunday, Uber’s board of directors voted unanimously to adopt all recommendations from Holder following the sprawling, multi-month investigation into the company’s cultures and practices.
The recommendations will be released to Uber employees on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
In addition, The New York Times reports that Uber directors were also weighing a three-month leave of absence for Kalanick, according to three people with information on the board’s agenda.
Read Kalanick’s email published by Recode.