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Uber Investigating Sexual Harassment Claims by Ex-Employee (nytimes.com)
678 points by qzervaas 332 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 488 comments

As I commented last night[1], the New York Times has cast Fowler's experience as a he-said-she-said story. Unfortunately I was not pessimistic enough:

1. The New York Times spiked the most damning part of Fowler's story: that HR was actively involved in supporting the behavior.

2. It down plays Fowler's specific experience as typical for the industry and marginalizes it by bringing Pao's story into Fowler's narrative. Pao's experience was radically different, if for no other reason than Fowler is a rank and file employee of the most typical kind, an engineer. Pao is an executive. It also brought all the irrlevant ambiguities surrounding Pao's executive actions at Reddit into the mix.

3. It repeats nearly all of Uber's public response verbatim rather than linking to it as it does with Fowler's article.

Fowler's story gets one paragraph (or two if the one sentence paragraph about going to work for Stripe counts). The same amount is devoted to Pao. Uber's PR gets the bulk of the article with no critical analysis.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13683159

NYTimes is a news organization with a mandate to report on verifiable fact, not rumor or opinion. You're complaining that it's reported as a he-said-she-said type of story… but for now, that's exactly what it is. The claims are quite plausible and convincing (and likely true), but at this point they still are merely unsubstantiated claims. If I were to imagine the right way to report such a story at this point, it would go like this (1) summarize the claims made, (2) include the response from the accused, and (3) emphasize that this is a developing story. That's pretty much what the NYT did. However, until a court or investigation corroborates the report, they shouldn't be reported as irrefutable fact.

That said I agree that the comparison to the Ellen Pao case has no place in this report. Pao's case was quite different and much less convincing. In my distanced armchair opinion, she deserved to lose that case.

It's not just about verified vs unverified claims, it's also how the claims are presented. The quotes from Fowler's blog are selective to misleading:

As an example, the part where she describes HR's excuses is quoted in full ("first offense", "honest mistake") but the part where she notes those excuse are likely complete fabrications is left unmentioned. That makes it appear as if Fowler were overreacting even by her own claims when her actual claims are much more grave and substantial.

I really wish papers could run non-stories along with the usual stories:

"Uber Sexual Harassment Claims Story - In Progress

This story is in progress, and the following are the verified facts:

<insert facts here>

The following are claims that no media has reliable, verifiable source on yet. If they are reporting on them as fact, you might want to reconsider what media you trust:

<insert claims here>

We will publish our full story when we the picture is clearer."

As the newspaper of record, it's also helpful to differentiate the reliable and non-reliable media for us.

Sometimes merely repeating an unsubstantiated fact can expose a news org to liability. Take, for instance, a slander or libel case.

That's not true. If you attribute what you say "X said", then X is guilty of slander/libel.

(YMMV in England)

In my journalism law classes in the US, precedent was dictated on the terms I described.

> unsubstantiated fact

That's just like dry water. If it's a fact then it's verifiable. If it can't be verified, it isn't a fact: just baseless hearsay.

For comparison consider:


The BBC provides a substantial account of Fowler's statement and places it in the context of her former employer's disclosure policies regarding diversity and those in the broader context of other tech industry corporations.

The New York Times portrayed Fowler's statement as 'ordinary' sexual aggression that could happen any where there's a bad apple and ignored the management and human resource angles.

If you want an objective fact, there was a drop from 25% women to 3% women. Now, it's not just he said she said.

I don't doubt for a second that that it's true, but what is the likelihood that the New York Times was able to verify it in less than a day? Is that something Uber is going to fess up to? They can simply say "no comment", and likely have. For all we know they're scrambling to move women into that department so that when the actual verifiable statistics do come out they're not so bad.

To verify this comment well enough to publish it, the NY Times is going to have to go find enough SREs at Uber who are willing to talk to them (and likely risk losing their job if discovered) about these issues.

Were you there when the alleged facts happened? If not, it is definitely he-said-she-said. It is probable that things happened as Fowler claims, but we have no way of knowing without evidence. The article mentions the facts, which are basically who said what, since neither side has shared any evidence. Personally I'm not going to pass judgment either way without knowing more, but this is definitely going into my something-fishy-over-there file.

Fowler described a pattern of ongoing behaviors by management and HR. That description forms the bulk of Fowler's narrative. The New York Times portrays Fowler's entire narrative via a single isolated incident. Conversely, it portrays tweets by the CEO and a board member as substantive and expansive responses of equal detail and devotes more column inches to corporate damage control PR than to Fowler's statement.

There is no plausibility analysis of the CEO's claim of unawareness given the recent replacement of the head of HR and its upgrade to a C-level position. Instead the New York Times analysis consists of drawing false parallels to the ambiguities of Pao's unrelated experiences.

I just came here to say that. I do not trust Uber and I do not trust her. And without evidence it is "he-said-she-said".

I really do not know what to say here.

Personally, I'm also worried that girlfriend of my wife working in Uber HR might be accused of "hiding sexual harassment" and subsequently just fired (because they are liability). In these cases kind of cases, "investigation by CEO" will cause low-level employees to be fired - even if they did nothing wrong. Just to satisfy blood thirsty "internet lynch crowd".

> Just to satisfy blood thirsty "internet lynch crowd".

Certainly, you meant "Just to escape personal responsibility", or "Just to escape the bad reputation earned by bad behaviour".

Honestly, you're talking about a "blood thirsty 'internet lynch crowd'" but really, it's just ordinary people frowning upon poor ethics. Your answer seems to share responsibility equally between someone you yourself describe as willing to do anything to get what he wants, and people criticizing this behaviour.

> Personally, I'm also worried that girlfriend of my wife working in Uber HR might be accused of "hiding sexual harassment" and subsequently just fired (because they are liability). In these cases kind of cases, "investigation by CEO" will cause low-level employees to be fired - even if they did nothing wrong.

That's a reasonable thing to worry about, but regardless of whether the accusation is true, the worry is about an incompetent and cowed CEO not doing his job, not about an ex-employee making an accusation without public proof.

If she's right, and an investigation by the CEO causes low-level employees to be fired and no real change of the company culture and the people responsible for it, those people were working for a bad CEO all along. If she's right, the behavior of people out-politicking their direct managers and throwing away useful projects is a ticking time bomb, and if she didn't say anything, someone would have, soon enough. Or some project would have failed and people would have asked questions, or a "high performer" would have not gotten their political way, or something. And the CEO would fire low-level employees for all the same reasons.

If she's somehow wrong, and the CEO gives into unsubstantiated public pressure and makes scapegoats out of good workers, again, I don't see how this will be the only time. Uber is, shall we say, not a company that is consistently the recipient of positive press. Something else will go wrong (say, marketing threatening to blackmail a journalist) and the CEO will again feel obligated to scapegoat someone. A good CEO should stand up for their employees.

You're worried about the CEO either way. You already were - you said you don't trust Uber. You need to help your wife's girlfriend find a better job where she's not at risk of being fired by an incompetent CEO.

This is conundrum we have.

Uber CEO and top-level management will not suffer as much as low level employees :( And nothing nothing will be fixed.

I'm saying that this kinda of witch hunt on internet is not helping and just makes us feelgood. Yeah - evil Uber (like people working there do not have kids, boyfriends, husbands, etc.). And nobody will come up with actual actions: the only action taken in action by Uber to do "internal investigation" - which I said it will only hurt low level employees.

> I'm saying that this kinda of witch hunt on internet is not helping and just makes us feelgood.

And you boldly offered no alternative.

If keeping sane societal ethics doesn't work to solve this particular problem, at least it may help to avoid making it the dominant, predatory business model. Which Uber got to champion because too few frowned upon their past behaviour, by the way.


She claims to have a record of all of the events, although she (rightly) didn't post them.

It might not stay that way like this.

Maybe the reporter didn't read the blog post, because it was beyond his attention span. Honestly, it just sounds like an editor assigned him to report.

If he had read it he wouldn't have summarized it as "a lengthy post on her personal blog": he would have written that Fowler wrote about her experiences which began " On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn't. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with." After she rightfully brought this to the attention of HR, she was told "I was then told that I had to make a choice: (i) I could either go and find another team and then never have to interact with this man again, or (ii) I could stay on the team, but I would have to understand that he would most likely give me a poor performance review when review time came around, and there was nothing they could do about that." with no further penalties or reprimand. That latter part is what's shocking, that she was told her performance would be reviewed poorly, even though she was very qualified (this team was the best fit for her and the work she wanted to do.)

She also wrote that HR told her regarding such complaints that they were first-time offenses, though she heard the same experience from multiple women.

In her account she didn't talk about harassment much (except the one incident) and instead said that she was given poor reviews (changed after she saw that the performance reviews were good) in order to keep from transferring. A lot of the blog post was about the lack of responsiveness by HR.

Her biggest issue was the way in which women were driven out. The important quote is "When I joined Uber, the organization I was part of was over 25% women. By the time I was trying to transfer to another eng organization, this number had dropped down to less than 6%" and then at the end that "Out of over 150 engineers in the SRE teams, only 3% were women."

Instead of reading her blog post and reporting on it, the reporter simply reported without reading, in a cookie-cutter way. (Or it certainly reads that way.)

Having read the source yesterday (along with everyone else here), I don't like the reporter's summary at all.

> Maybe the reporter didn't read the blog post, because it was beyond his attention span.

I know Mike and I assure you that (1) he has the attention span to read a blog post, and (2) he was not just "assigned." He's on the tech beat. He lives in San Francisco, not New York. And he's paying very close attention to this story. Go look at his Twitter feed if you don't believe me. https://twitter.com/MikeIsaac

Curious if the reporter uses or has used Uber. If so, it is the sort of thing that traditional journalism standards would probably applaud disclosing as a potential conflict of interest. To me, this is particularly relevant for a reporter on the Silicon Valley tech beat who is likely to have past interactions with companies like Uber...given the reality that working the Silicon Valley tech beat for the New York Times, for whatever it entails, does not seem to entail breaking stories like Fowler's.

Basic Googling suggests there's plenty of basis for investigative journalism:






What is curious is that there are not New York Times stories in the high ranking Google search results for relevant search terms.

LOL. "Having used the fungible services of a company that is being reported on" is a weak basis for claiming a conflict of interest, a mere grasping of straws. These disclaimers are reserved for financial or business interests between an author and their subject; saving $5 on cab fare over the weekend doesn't count.

Uses or has used Uber... in San Francisco?

Curious, do you think a reporter in the 1980s would have the same conflict of interest reporting on AT&T, the phone company that everyone used?

On the "tech beat" which means that no ofence intended he almost certainly has very little knowledge on hr / Industrial Relations.

Does the NYT not have a labour or in UK terms an "industrial" correspondent who would be more knowledgeable

EDIT: Mike has responded to me by email. I'm keeping the comment below but as long as the piece is updated over time I'm probably fine with it. Don't read too much into my critique below.


Original version of this comment:

How do you explain the fact that Mike didn't quote the original instance of harrassment, nor summarize it in his own words, turning away from the highly interesting quote, "On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat...He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with" (which Mike could have summarized in his own words, or selectively quote) for the much less precise quote "It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR", which does not mention the context or messages.

How do you explain that Mike chose not to quote "I was then told that I had to make a choice: (i) I could either go and find another team and then never have to interact with this man again, or (ii) I could stay on the team, but I would have to understand that he would most likely give me a poor performance review when review time came around, and there was nothing they could do about that" which is what separates this from an instance of propositioning someone and this person turning them down, which is ill-advised but can happen. It is an extremely salient quote and could be accurately written by Mike as Fowler claims HR informed her she could change teams or "could stay on the team, but [she] would have to understand that [her manager] would most likely give [her] a poor performance review when review time came around". That is the money quote, what separates this from a run-of-the-mill passing expression of romantic (or sexual) interest to someone who didn't reciprocate. (After all there are perfectly acceptable office romances as well as flings, asking someone is not the end of the world). Asking someone for sex is one thing, the quote Mike left out entirely is another, and it is absolutely inconceivable that any attentive and honest journalist who read that source could so badly report it. How can he be a good and attentive reporter, who actually read that with interest (as opposed to a quick assignment) and leave it out entirely?

Mike chooses not to accurately summarize the write-up, calling it "a lengthy post on her personal blog". He says "The engineer, Susan Fowler, said that she was sexually harassed by her direct supervisor" whereas she does not make this specific claim but simply lists the facts of the matter, which the journalist chose not to report, putting words in her mouth instead. Journalists report facts, not their take on it. If someone says "I was blackout drunk when we had sex" (this is technically rape) a reporter does not have the right to say the source claims she was raped. That's not the quote.

How can he put words in her mouth? (If he actually attentively read his source and is an honest journalist.)

It's simply not an accurate summary of his source. She did not claim that. The only time that expression is mentioned is in the sentence "I was told by both HR and upper management that [...] this was clearly sexual harassment". Not words she used.

Overall, Fowler did not say she was sexually harassed. She related that her manager said he was always getting in trouble for propositioning for sex, and she related that after informing HR, she was told she could stay but would likely get a poor performance review, or transfer to another team.

She related other issues she experienced as a woman, such as poor performance reviews, on another team (this is unrelated to the above), which she interpreted (likely correctly) as a means of keeping her on a team (due to the lack of women), i.e. as a way of blocking her transfer from a role she was performing well in at the time. In total most of the blog post is not about sexual harassment, but rather about the culture at Uber from the perspective of a woman. She devotes considerable attention to the percentage of women at the company, and their experiences there, which she closes her blog post with.

The reason I suspect Mike did not actually read the article, or is a very poor reader (or has some conflict of interest, or was in a hurry/inattentive, or was writing the story he wanted to write instead of what he read) is that he did not characterize its tone correctly. The blog post (his only source) is titled "Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber" (he leaves out that title). The blog post actually opens with "It's a strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story" and closes with "And when I think about the things I've recounted in the paragraphs above, I feel a lot of sadness, but I can't help but laugh at how ridiculous everything was. Such a strange experience. Such a strange year."

Finally, why does Mike, who mischaracterizes the blog post, not mention the facts of the matter, which is that Fowler was a highly qualified engineer who wrote a technical book that built on her time there, and that she felt the team was the perfect one for her? He leaves this out entirely. Like, he doesn't even glance at her credentials.

In sum, I find that Mike either has poor reading comprehension skills, or did not take the time to read the post, or simply is not honestly summarizing it.

His article is not an accurate summary of the blog post that I read, which is his sole and only source. Read it yourself and look through the rest of Fowler's site if you don't believe me. He does not capture the tone of the source he reports whatsoever.

The linked article is poorly written by a bad or dishonest journalist. [EDIT: this is going too far and I withdraw this line.]

If you know Mike personally, please send him my critique of his reporting. It's shamefully bad and he should be more attentive. [withdrawn]

EDIT: Actually I found his email in the twitter handle you linked and have sent him this thread myself. He needs to do a better job.

EDIT2: he already replied to my email, saying he wanted to get the piece out there short and quickly, and planned to go a bit deeper soon. (I replied suggesting he at least update the piece to add the most important quotes.)

All you're making are editorial decisions at this point, talking about what should and should not be in the article.

As pointed out by many others, right now this is definitely a case of he said/she said. An alternate reading is that he didn't want to get into the details, as it would derail the story to make people read all the unsubstantiated verbiage.

The statements "a lengthy post on her personal blog" and "said. she was sexually harassed" are both true and accurate.

No, "she said she was sexually harrassed" is not true and accurate. She said her superior propositioned her, and that when she reported him to HR they said she could change to a different team, or stay on that team and likely get a negative review and that there was nothing they could do. (This was despite the fact that she was really qualified and considered that team the best fit for her and where she could add the most value.)

However, I do agree with you that my suggestions are editorial in nature, yes.

You should consider taking your issues with the story to the Public Editor [1], who is the point person for feedback on NYTimes' reporting.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/column/the-public-editor

An interesting idea. Conversely, the public editor could make an account here and defend the story. It would be an interesting read.

Now as absurd as that might sound, that's probably something that would fall within the Public Editor's job description and that the Public Editor would be paid to do it. On the other hand, I'm not getting paid to improve the New York Times and the reporters and editors and so forth who are being paid, all felt the story was fine and dandy. So the odds that my efforts will change the institutional character of the New York Times are proportional to the degree to which it actively is soliciting my opinion...which it does not need to do since I have stated it here.

Yeah unfortunately NYT mixed the 2 to try to get sympathy for Pao and paint a broader gender issue within SV. These 2 cases are quite far apart.

The facts are not in yet; this is a developing story.

We've seen at least a couple big cases where journalists were too quick to take a side, ended up very wrong, and lost a lot of credibility for themselves and future accusers. Restraint is warranted.

That being said, the NYT needs to follow up after the drama dies down, and not just leave the final story as a footnote somewhere.

> It repeats nearly all of Uber's public response verbatim rather than linking to it as it does with Fowler's article.

A single paragraph was included verbatim. A >20 paragraph piece was linked. Similar amounts of text were included from both parties.

It's not a great article, but this particular objection seems overstated.

I'm curious as to whether you're complaining about the story. What do you mean by "spiked"? The coverage seems fair and open-ended

Fowler's statement describes ongoing and systematic patterns of discrimination, retribution and harassment against and of women and its facilitation by the human resource department. The headline leads with Uber's damage control message and ignores the most serious part of Fowler's description.

In case you're still following, another Uber engineer's voice:


My remarks: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13697010

The piece is consistent with the Rogue Actor narrative as is the subsequently disclosed investigative structure which involves lawyering up. Most likely to assess the legal risk and perhaps to come up with a strategy that allows truthful but non-incriminating statements should the fallout turn out to entail deposition by hostile lawyers.

Still nobody fired and the official narrative is that the CEO is moved to tears rather than taking personal responsibility.

Neither the NYT nor Reuters articles mention the other 90% of the alleged activities:


That's the link in the article.

So profoundly disappointed in not just the NY Times but all the media coverage. The story is not that Travis has ordered an investigation - it's that Uber is a cesspool. And for those who are saying "do you have evidence" - please... Like we ALL don't know what working at Uber is like. Cmon man.

Only in the court of public opinion does "Cmon man--you know it's true" hold any value. On the whole it's not looking very good for Uber, but it's hard to say with any certainty until facts materialize.

The main stream media caters its reporting to maintain access. Alternative media tends to do likewise. A reporter whose beat is Silicon Valley tech companies has to maintain access to those companies so that they can get an email from the CEO when the story breaks. If the reporter spent significant time muck raking the employment practices of the tech industry, the reporter would be frozen out. The Anti-Trust collusion case wasn't based on a story that some reporter broke or news outlet broke.

>Ms. Fowler’s account is another sign of Silicon Valley’s struggle with women’s issues and diversity in a male-dominated engineering environment. In 2015, the venture capital world was put under the microscope when Ellen Pao, a former partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, claimed in a lawsuit that she was discriminated against at the blue-chip venture firm because of her gender — a case she lost.

This paragraph is indicative of how terrible the NYTimes is with editorializing. They couldn't just report on one case with objective facts. Instead they decided to make it sound like this level of harassment is endemic to Silicon Valley (this behavior doesn't match the 6 companies I've worked at) and the only evidence they provided was the Ellen Pao case where a jury decided she was wrong.

This completely devalues the entire article and puts it on par with political commentary.

> where a jury decided she was wrong.

A jury didn't decide she was wrong. That's not what juries do. A jury decided that they couldn't all unanimously agree beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was right. Just because a jury doesn't convict doesn't mean the problem didn't happen.


That case would have been decided under the "preponderance of evidence" standard, since it's a civil trial, not the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard (used for criminal trials) or the "beyond a shadow of a doubt" standard (which is exclusively for death penalty cases).

I see! So is it reasonable to say that the jury "proved" that there was no problem?

edit: Hah, judging by the downvotes, it's not! Hehe, this is the first time I'm super-happy to be downvoted. :-)

it was a civil suit, not a criminal trial. Ellen Pao was the plaintiff. The jury determined she didn't make a convincing case.

Oh. Am I wrong in believing that even for a civil trial, the jury must be heavily biased towards the defendant? Does California require jury unanimity to reach a decision in a civil case?

according to this


the burden of proof is

> A party must persuade you, by the evidence presented in court, that what he or she is required to prove is more likely to be true than not true. This is referred to as “the burden of proof.” After weighing all of the evidence, if you cannot decide that something is more likely to be true than not true, you must conclude that the party did not prove it. You should consider all the evidence, no matter which party produced the evidence.

so in Ellen Pao's case, she (and her lawyers) could not convince the jury that her claim was more likely true than not true. In other words, she argued her case and was not persuasive enough. I'm not a lawyer though, and I don't know if there is a requirement for Jury unanimity or just simple majority.

I am also not a lawyer, but a quick web search suggests that for civil cases in California, if 3/4s of the jury finds for the plaintiff, the plaintiff wins (ie, 9 of 12).

According to what I've read about the case, no, unanimity wasn't required. They needed a 75% consensus, apparently in either direction. (I think? This part was unclear to me.)

I'm curious, are you a man or a woman? I'm only asking because you cite your experience at 6 companies to support the assertion that this is not a widespread problem in SV. I assert that men would have a harder time detecting this problem.

I've been transitioning from male to female, starting 4 years ago. It was shocking to me when I started making friends with girls and listening to their stories. At first I didn't empathize and presented arguments such as, "they had best intentions" or "it was just a misunderstanding". After having friends and my mind/body being transformed by estrogen I began to understand and empathize with my female friends; I began to see similarities in the stories they told me and how others interacted with me. My point being that its quite surprising how different experience can be and how important it is to listen to how others experience the world.

Everyone experiences the world differently and it's important to take the time to understand how different or similar their experiences are.

Thank you for sharing your rare perspective.

> My point being that its quite surprising how different experience can be and how important it is to listen to how others experience the world.

That's advice that I would normally accept as good, like a Ben Franklin quote. But coming from you it strikes me as especially valuable, especially in light of current events.

My feed is full of women saying that this kind of stuff is not unique to Uber. What's apparently remarkable is that all of this happened to her in one year.

That's fine.. It just hurts NYT's article to lump Fowler and Pao together (BTW Pao case had nothing to do with sexual harrassment). IMO it would be a much stronger article if it just focused on Fowler.


Sure, we'll all sit down and stop engaging in the issue... Nothing to do here, this is entirely a non-male's problem!

Sarcasm aside, you're also not helping. Even if someone is off-base in their opinion or what they're writing, telling them to STFU is, in most cases, worse than their actual opinion.

> (this behavior doesn't match the 6 companies I've worked at)

Why do you think women would tell you about their experiences? I've read your comments on HN, and you'd be the last person I'd tell if it had happened to me.

>Why do you think women would tell you about their experiences?

Putting aside the unjustified personal attack for a moment, even if they didn't tell me, they wouldn't need to for me to know these companies haven't had this problem. It was clear from the relatively high percentages of female engineers (20-30% for SV-centric companies, one as high as 40% that had branches in European countries with better female graduate ratios). More importantly, there was a very low rate of turnover and the turnover that was present matched that of the male employees.

>I've read your comments on HN, and you'd be the last person I'd tell if it had happened to me.

So back to the personal attack. What specifically have I said that makes you think I wouldn't be a good person to talk to about a situation like this?

What a hateful and oddly specific comment.

"I've read your comments"

Yeah, ok buddy

He's not wrong. 'hueving's comment history around here pushes an extreme-right-wing viewpoint that is cloaked in just enough civility to make the decent folks I know around here reconsider whether or not it's worth engaging with him. (Many don't, because it's exhausting to be alternative-facted to death.) I wouldn't expect a woman--or anyone--to tell me jack and/or shit if I was comfortable expressing worldviews that treat them the way 'hueving does. And it's not "hateful" to call out somebody whose hat is exactly that; 'DanBC (who is a fantastic poster around here) is not wrong to use the history of a poster to challenge his I-don't-see-it-so-it-doesn't-exist dismissals. As for "oddly specific," 'DanBC has been here longer than I have; you start recognizing names when the pattern of posts that make your gorge rise goes on as long as these have.

But then, I spent a minute browsing your latest work, too, so I am not particularly surprised that in your post you choose to, as with most modern conservatives, attempt to call citing a reactionary's record "hate" when it is that reactionary's behavior that exemplifies it.

>He's not wrong. 'hueving's comment history around here pushes an extreme-right-wing viewpoint

Feel free to link to any of my extreme right wing view points. I'll highlight a few of my beliefs that have been argued about recently here to save some time:

* I think unions that collectively bargain are a bad idea for software engineers because there is a wide variety in expertise and pay tied to a title fails to recognize that.

* I prefer market-based solutions to most problems because humans on a large scale don't seem to be that altruistic. (I.e. Attack CO2 with cap and trade rather than tons of regulations spread all over different industries)

* UBI as people suggest it ($10k-$20k per person annually) is currently ridiculously unsustainable in the US. People talk about it as if it's as simple as a policy decision but we would need to double our tax revenue to pay for it, which could easily cause a depression.

* All conservatives are not racists, idiots, bigots, whatever label. Stories and comments that perpetuate this idea are shallow and lack critical thought, so I will call them out for that.

* I don't think things like hiring quotas and "heads of diversity" will solve diversity issues when the supply of new graduates is so imbalanced. Hiring people based on gender/race will cause people to think they are only there to fill a checkbox and not because they are skilled.

These are pretty centrist viewpoints by US standards. I would like you to identify something you consider right wing extremism and link it.

>because it's exhausting to be alternative-facted to death

Is "alternative-facted" a new term for challenging viewpoints?

>make the decent folks I know around here reconsider whether or not it's worth engaging with him

Interesting for someone accusing me of being extreme right wing to use a play right out of Donald Trump's book. Provide a completely unprovable and unfalsifiable claim that gives the impression that "many people tell you these things".

I really don't see how personal attacks, or attaching pejorative labels to others (conservative, reactionary etc.) enhances your argument. It just makes it seem like you don't have a convincing counter-argument and need to resort to appeals to emotion / preaching to those who already agree with you. If you actually want to convince people who don't share your views, perhaps consider a different tactic.

And there's just something unsettling about going through someone's comment history to better 'target' your irrelevant personal attacks. I think it reveals more about you than it does about the person you're attacking.

If "conservative" is a pejorative--well, that's their own doing. I called myself a conservative for a very long time until it became obvious that American conservatism required of its adherents a level of misanthropy that I could not ever support. Hell, I worked for Republican congressional campaigns, twice!

But you seem to misapprehend me, and maybe that's my fault. I don't want to convince any extremist. My intention is to deny them the legitimacy of the chin-stroking, pince-nez-adjusting "thoughtfulness and reason" that they so earnestly adopt. Because that posture is very, very good at convincing the low-information reader that they are credible. They are not. The extreme right wing understands that this isn't about facts (but are happy to retreat to the sinecure of "what about your facts?!" when challenged), but about narratives. I will (and 'DanBC did) challenge 'hueving's narrative because his narrative doesn't make sense: of course he doesn't see it, those who experience it would have to be themselves reality-averse not to realize it would just be an invitation for a battery of well-actuallys and backhanded snipes. It's who he chooses to show himself as. He has no credibility when he leans on what he sees, and shouldn't.

As far as "going through someone's comment history": I'm a known quantity around here and I use my real name. Others may choose to use pseudonyms and that's fine, but their histories here are important for context. 'hueving I recognize by sight. The poster to whom I replied is not one I recognize, but he has comments blurfing about "liberals" literally on the first pace of his comment history. I'm not going to go digging, but I like knowing whether I'm dealing with somebody who's actually acting in good faith. He wasn't, and you can bet I'll call him on it.

> And there's just something unsettling about going through someone's comment history

You don't have to go through someone's comment history to remember what they post.

> who is a fantastic poster around here

DanBC sticks in my mind as a poster that I disagree with on most things. Can you tell me why he is a "fantastic poster"?

> is not wrong to use the history of a poster to challenge his I-don't-see-it-so-it-doesn't-exist dismissals

It is on the basis that DanBC has no idea how HN post history has to do with what that poster sees. It's just an Ad-hom.

> I spent a minute browsing your latest work, too

> as with most modern conservatives

Is your own profile fair game then too? Whatever I dislike about you past comments I can dredge up randomly to harass you with whenever you make a comment I don't like?

It's an aside from this conversation, but why do you put a ' in front of user names?

It's a way of denoting a user name, similar to how @ designates Twitter user names. I suspect ' is common on HN because ' designates a symbol in lisp.

It's why I use it; also, because my motivation for quoting usernames was that people had dumb usernames, like "the", that I was mistakenly evaluating in sentence context. :)

You definitely can't use @username on HN; many (most?) HN commenters don't have @username on Twitter. I'm @tqbf on Twitter, not @tptacek.

I picked it up from 'tptacek, I think. @ didn't make sense, so...

Thanks for the information

> I've read your comments on HN, and you'd be the last person I'd tell if it had happened to me.

So you prefer preaching to the choir to trying to change someone's mind?

Are you saying victims of harassment have some duty to seek out and tell people who are unlikely to believe them or care?

If it clearly benefits current and future victims to be taken seriously and get any help they may need? Yes, in my opinion. But that is a much more personal ethics call.

Except telling someone like the OP who clearly is not the kind of person that would believe the victim or try to get any help, and instead launch into a cross examination isn't going to do that. All that's going to do is make the victim feel even worse, and possibly discourage her from getting help or reporting at all.

The fundamental principle of the American justice system is that we should be skeptical of all claims of wrong-doing. The appropriate response to these claims is to ask for evidence and in its absence potentially educate the claimant on how to properly collect evidence. I'm sure there's a lot of legitimate claims out there, and most of them will not result in justice. However, rampant speculation based on Twitter anecdotes is never going to be helpful.

Except that's for the Justice System. Not normal people. The Justice System can take care of vetting evidence. Normal people are supposed to be supportive and stand up for those who come to them with stories like this one.

And I'm sorry, but if someone comes to you and says that they've experienced the things in this story, and the first thing you do is ask for evidence, then you will be branded a monster, and rightfully so. You are telling that person, "I do not believe you; I think you are a liar." If someone comes to you with a story like this, you provide support to them. You console them. You ask them what you can do to help. You do not cross examine them, and make them feel terrible for coming to you.

Different audiences. If you're a close friend or the HR person at the corporate office, then sure the first thing you do is console them. If you're the media or just general public, you ask for evidence before you socially/publicly crucify someone.

Except this kind of behavior is endemic to the industry. Just about every woman I know in the industry has a story similar to this. All over Twitter, women are sharing their similar stories.

Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it hasn't happened. It means you haven't paid attention.

Mild sexism is endemic to a portion of our industry. But I honestly have not previously encountered allegations on the level of "my boss propositioned me on my first day and HR said they wouldn't do anything".

I would like to pay attention: we can't improve this problem unless we pay attention. If you would be willing to point me to a few examples of people making similar claims, I will commit to reading through them and trying to raise awareness of the issue within my own company.

>I would like to pay attention: we can't improve this problem unless we pay attention.

What's this "we" business? Who's "we"?

I don't know about you, but I'm an engineer. I am neither a manager, nor an executive, nor an HR goon. I accept no responsibility for the actions of people in those positions. Especially those useless HR people. We engineers are nothing more than low-level lackeys, rank-and-file employees who have zero power except to quit.

> What's this "we" business? Who's "we"?

> I don't know about you, but I'm an engineer. I am neither a manager, nor an executive, nor an HR goon.

Guess what? I'm also an engineer. (My official title is "Architect".) I do not manage anyone. I am not an executive. I do not work with the nice, helpful folks in HR.

But I DO take responsibility for the overall behavior of my organization. I do not bear that responsibility alone, but along with the rest of the people I work with. "If it's broken, fix it!" is fundamentally an engineer's credo. "It's not my job" is a pretty poor excuse.

> We engineers are nothing more than low-level lackeys, rank-and-file employees who have zero power except to quit.

Wow. Maybe you need to find a new job. That's not how engineers are treated where I work. Sure, we don't get everything we ever ask for -- but our concerns are taken seriously. And one of our concerns is to create a working environment that is at least minimally acceptable. I may be male, but if I discovered that my company was harboring behavior like Susan Fowler describes, I would take it to HR. If the actions continued, I would report it to the CEO or the board. If that failed I would quit. And I'll never have to do any of those things because plenty of other people I work with would behave the same way and that kind of abuse would never be tolerated.


Ok, fine. Please tell me exactly what I can do to help, and make sure it doesn't get me fired.

Your turn.

Let me guess; you don't have an answer, just your snide, pithy response.

I wonder how much impact this will have. If they will discipline and fire people and put processes in place to keep the problem fixed, or if they will make a lot of noise about investigation and saying how terrible they feel and not have anything change.

Someone here once asked me how I differentiated between a corporation run by people and a corporation structured as an institution. In the latter there are processes put in place that bind the people in the corporation to specific rules and constraints, and the consequences of not following the rules is well defined and not up to interpretation.

An example of that would be a sexual harassment protocol that would be activated by making a claim to the protocol director. That position would typically report to the general counsel or the CEO. That director would have 30 days from the time of the report to capture statements from all of the named parties, copies of all company email from all named parties, and any chat session transcripts. The protocol director would then have another 30 days to seek out any corroborating information from people likely to be affected and then would provide the CEO (or General Counsel) with a report on whether or not harassment was deemed to occur. If it had, they would be required to remove from management responsibility the perpetrator on a first offense, and to separate from the company on a second offense. There would be no consideration for their "performance" against their goals.

Its all very mechanical, there isn't a lot of leeway for misinterpretation and the punishment is fixed without recourse. Of course there are similar punishments doled out to protocol enforcers should they attempt to mitigate the protocol.

Institutions are interlocking processes and regulations which insure the proper functioning and survival of the institution in the face of imperfect people being in charge of executing the institution's mission.

Corporations of people run on loyalty, friendship, and leverage. In such a corporation, justice is only found the exercise of friendship or leverage. And greater friendship or greater leverage can steer the result regardless of its merits.

> I wonder how much impact this will have.

What were the consequences when Uber management was caught behaving badly in the past?

In November 2014, Uber’s senior vice president Emil Michael suggested Uber hire a team of opposition researchers—equipped with a million-dollar budget—to dig into the personal lives of journalists who reported negatively about the company in order to dox, target and harass them and their families. One of his main targets was Pando founder and editor-in-chief Sarah Lacey, who had reported on the company’s sexist and misogynistic ways. Further proving her point, Mr. Michael said he thought Ms. Lacy should be held “personally responsible” if passengers who head Ms. Lacey’s advice and stop using Uber are sexually assaults by taxi drivers. Mr. Kalanick apologized on behalf of the company, but Mr. Michael didn’t lose his position.

Well, there's your answer.

What actually happened: "Emil was pushing Ben to answer why it was OK for journalists to publish false stories or attack a businessperson’s personal life. Ben was quiet. It was a pretty normal conversation about hypotheticals. There was no malice or yelling or fighting. It was a chat between the two of them that I happened to overhear. The last comment that I heard was when Emil hypothesized about creating a coalition for responsible journalism. Ben said that would likely fail because companies have no expertise in journalism. Emil flippantly said he could hire professional journalists for $1 million to get the expertise to make sure that they could respond when negative articles come out."


Since when is discussing a philosophical hypothetical "behaving badly"?

And again, the actual hypothetical is worth answering. Suppose Emil did, in fact, drop $1M on hiring journalists to do journalism to other journalists. Why is it "behaving badly" if Uber does journalism, but not if Techcrunch or Gawker does?

So Emil talks about spending millions on PR to discredit their critics, and then his journalist friend writes an article discrediting a critic and contradicting everything he said. Sorry if I'm a bit skeptical.

If you are hired by a corporation to respond to journalists, you are in PR, not journalism. You're not motivated by the truth.

The actual idea was to hire researchers and journalists to dig up dirt in the personal lives of critical journalists, not merely to respond to them.

Since when is journalism motivated by the truth?

HuffPo should be disqualified as a source regarding Uber. As stated in the NYT piece, Arianna Huffington is on Uber's board. She has a clear interest in shining as positive a light as possible on Uber at all times.

Ask yourself which journalists have A16Z or Andreessen himself as investors, who are also among the biggest investors in Lyft. This is an exercise left up to the reader.

There is no journalism in Silicon Valley. Everything is PR. As Doerr said "No conflict, no interest."

In this light, Susan Rigetti seems to have published a solid piece of personal journalism.

Ok. Lets imagine Emil actually did exactly as described in his hypothetical: hiring people to investigate true facts and report them to the public.

How is that somehow worse than Gawker hiring people to do that to Uber?

When those "true facts" are the personal details of journalists and their families, researched and published specifically to make them fear for their safety.

If you think that maliciously doxing people is perfectly fine as long as the dox are true facts, then you are a being a troll. If I have misunderstood your point, then I apologise and would appreciate clarification.

Doxing refers to identifying anonymous writers on the internet. So I'm not sure what you are referring to - Emil Michael was discussing reporting true but embarrassing personal facts about (public figure) Sarah Lacy.

Specifically, the idea was to write articles like these, but with Sarah Lacy (founder of Pando) as the subject:



So yes, my concrete question is why it's wrong to write the 4 most awful true things about Sarah Lacy, but it's perfectly fine to write the 4 most awful true facts about Travis Kalanick?

No, the idea was to dig up private information about people in retaliation for them doing their jobs because the things they write don't reflect well on Uber.

The first article there is taking a public PR interview that someone chose to give and copy pasting it. He should be thanking Pando for it, they are simply repeating quotes he intentionally gave to the public with a little bit of editorializing.

The second one is downright nasty I agree, except for the entire section on Uber which is totally fine. Just quotes that Kalanick gave to the news media and the public willingly speaking as CEO of his company (NOT dredged out of his personal life) and 'information' about their business practices and NOT about the personal, private life of anyone. It also outlines illegal business practices, a culture of disregard for customer safety, disrespect for drivers, etc. Something Uber customers (and shareholders) have a right to know about but that Uber certainly won't tell them.

Quoting leaked personal emails is nasty. There's a line between private and public and exposing someone's private life because you don't like what they're doing in their public life is what's so disgusting and beyond the pale. Pando certainly does exactly that (they did it to Evan Spiegel in the article you linked), you could even say their entire business model is based on being scummy but that doesn't mean it's alright for Uber to. In fact it's much worse for Uber to. I don't trust Pando with personal information about my comings and goings (or trust them at all, with anything) or let them install an app on my phone with permissions. Pando doesn't forcibly alter the laws in every governmental jurisdiction it touches to favor their business. It's a huge difference of scale.

No, the idea was to dig up private information about people in retaliation for them doing their jobs because the things they write don't reflect well on Uber.

I don't understand - you wrote the word "no" in front a sentence in complete agreement with me.

If I understand your argument, it's wrong for Uber to investigate and report true facts because you give them personal information (which presumably would not be used in this reporting) and because Uber speaks to the public and lobbies the government for redress of grievances? Could you explain why these activities somehow make investigating and reporting true facts somehow wrong?

(Your use of the term "forcibly alter" is, I assume, hyperbole. As far as I'm aware Uber has never used force against anyone, although it is often the victim of others who use force.)

What other activities causes one to lose one's (moral, if not legal) right to investigate and report true facts? If Sarah Lacy (for example) had an abortion, refused to allow soldiers to quarter in her house or refused to incriminate herself, would she then lose her (moral or ethical) right to investigate and report?

I agree with you that Pando has lost any claim of moral superiority and has done very despicable things.

I don't agree with you that "Pando did it" is a good excuse for someone else to do it too.

I do think that Uber is trying to position itself as a respectable company (they are asking people to trust them quite a bit, getting into their cars, giving them their data), not a hive of scum and villainy like Pando is, and they don't deserve to be considered a respectable company if they engage in the same despicable behavior Pando does.

You lose the moral high ground when you do disgusting things to other people. It doesn't matter if they do it too. You keep saying "reporting true facts" but this is not what's immoral, of course. It's immoral to make someone's private life public in retaliation for their public activity (I claim, and I think you'd agree or at least concede the point for the sake of this argument).

Forcibly alter was part hyperbole but also part not. Dumping huge amounts of lobbying money into small governments in order to change the laws to suit your business is political/economic force. Violence is not the only kind of 'forcing' that can be done. Hostile takeovers are not violent, but they are certainly forcible.

> why it's wrong to write the 4 most awful true things about Sarah Lacy, but it's perfectly fine to write the 4 most awful true facts about Travis Kalanick?

The article highlighted four direct quotes from Kalanick's interview with GQ magazine, not "the 4 most awful true facts about Travis Kalanick."

Do you understand the difference between digging up and exposing embarrassing personal details about a person and his or her family, and quoting what a person said in a magazine interview?

Do you believe it would be wrong for Gawker or Pando to publish the 4 most awful true facts about Travis Kalanick? E.g., leaked emails he wrote to a fraternity (as was done to Evan Spiegel)? Or perhaps reports by a third party that he was a great big jerk?

These are things that notable journalistic establishments do on a regular basis. I'm asking the same question that Emil Michael asked: why is it wrong to do the same thing to journalists?

Some journalists have written trashy gossip articles, and I wouldn't defend that.

But if that's his mindset, "Other people have done bad things, so why shouldn't I?", that's not great. That leads to a culture of decaying ethics, lowest-common-denominator behavioral norms, backstabbing and retribution, etc. And the stories we've heard about life at Uber become much more plausible.

If you have a principled objection to all such journalism, then it's fair to apply that same objection to Gawker, Pando and Uber alike. I don't agree with your premise, but you at least seem to be consistent.

But I don't think that Ben Smith (editor at Gawker, and the person Emil Michael was arguing with) could make the same objection without being a transparent hypocrite.

If Uber reflexively solved problems through discipline and process, they wouldn't have wound up in this situation in the first place. Far more likely is something like the least powerful people they can get away with scapegoating end up thrown to the wolves. 1-2 non-HR managers for being weak enough to let the situation get out of hand, and a bunch of HR folks for not effectively covering.

That will only work if those thrown to the wolves get some serious hush-money, as in "I'll never have to work again" money. I assume those folk have some strong evidence that the protection of misogynist employees went further up the org chart.

That assumes a lot about making-sure-you-have-a-paper-trail skills and how effectively management dodges that. Suppose you're a forward-thinking manager in a quickly growing company - do you promote the HR person who asks for a paper trail, or the one that is okay with getting told to do sketchy stuff in a deniable way?

I assume that in HR-101 they learn the paper trail skills, and have it explained to them that it is as much for their protection as for anyone else's.

If you‘re interested in what you call “corporations of people”, one classic sociology paper is about Medici Florence, http://www.stats.ox.ac.uk/~snijders/PadgettAnsell1993.pdf

That is an awesome read! Thanks for the link. A bit long but it articulates the notions of structural control much more clearly than I did.

Not to stand in Uber's defense, but it wouldn't surprise me if they end up not firing anyone over this. At the end of the day, they run a business, and one misconduct like this could make investors unhappy.

It will have impact. It won't move the needle 100% across the industry, but I can see a 5% movement. Well done Susan if she doesn't sue.

Why "if she doesn't sue"? Assuming she is giving an honest accounting, and has the evidence to back it, why shouldn't she be compensated for shedding the light on the shitty practices of the company that shielded her, and a number of other folks that need to be held accountable for their abuse.

why the heck she shouldnt sue?

I'm dismayed that articles about sexual harassment in tech often bring up the Ellen Pao case. Her claims were rejected because the jury found that her claims weren't believable, and if you look at the evidence that was presented in the case, I don't think this is an unreasonable conclusion.

If the accusations in this case are true (and, according to the original blog post, there should be plenty of paper trail to back them up), then bringing up the Ellen Pao case does a disservice to Susan Fowler. It would be like bringing up the UVA gang rape case during a discussion of a real case of sexual assault.

One thing that every employee needs to understand is that HR is not your friend. No matter how friendly or helpful they seem, their job is not to protect you. It's to protect the company.

Sure they're not your friend, but Jesus Christ, the amount of legal trouble this particular HR establishment exposed themselves to through their actions is breathtaking. THAT'S their job: to prevent the company from getting sued!!

In this case I'm completely bewildered as to why HR handled this particular situation so clumsily.

Agreed. The "HR is not your friend" trope gets thrown out a lot, but in cases where your goals align with the company's (i.e. you don't want to get harassed, and the company doesn't want to get sued), HR is the place you should be able to go.

Reading between the lines of Mrs. Fowler's account, the company's goal was being nice to a more important employee than her: a common situation in sexual harassment cases and other workplace conflicts.

I'd also point out the possibility that Uber HR has no power... or upper HR management (formerly Renee Atwood, now Liane Hornsey?) is complicit.

They have a management chain just like everyone else, and if the person at the top (or the person above them) says "We're not going to discipline this guy" then the best HR can do is try to deescalate the situation.

If true that HR has no power (and it's starting to look like that's the case), then it's clear that the company culture itself it so rotten as to remove any accountability chain just for the sake of a few (sexual predator) engineers spinning out a few more features that will make the company a few (or a lot) more dollars. Shame!

Then we'll find out who did have the power, and also find out if the board has the power to discipline those individuals.

Will we really? Or will they come out with a report saying that those responsible likely left some time ago, without naming any names, and no C-level resignations? Time will tell.

I already deleted the shortcut off my launcher. We'll see how going Lyft-only for a while works.

If that's the case it's your responsibility to go over their head, all the way if necessary - as it would be for an engineer whose boss said to use Balsa wood for a support instead of steel.

If Edward had to do it, we do too.

And they miscalculated the extend to which said person was more of a liability than an asset, after all.

> Should be able to go

Yes, in theory. But most HRs "protect the org" in the most short sighted way possible

I'm an HR professional. I've done extensive consulting to organization of people processes and HR functioning. I've found that companies typically get what they pay for in their HR department. Many organization echo the sentiment that many contributors on HN have (i.e., that HR is a sometimes necessary evil; the people are marginally skilled; etc.). Organizations that have that mentality of HR hire HR teams that are fine at transactional work, "saying yes", and managing to targets. And then when situations arise - either acute situations like sexual harassment or problems that manifest over longer timeframes - they pay the price.

Like any department, HR should be staffed with intelligent, values-driven leaders with the spine to take strong perspectives and the ability to form collaborative vs. transactional relationships with the business. Constantly saying "yes" and failing to push back or take principled stands is not collaborative. Yet that is what many young companies want out of their HR department. I've found this more true in young(er) tech companies, though my sample size is limited.

When you build your HR function as a transactional service center, you get short-sighted decision-making.

That's all just my professional opinion.

From what I have observed, there is a tussle between Eng managers and HRs for supremacy, plus few HR folks have overly inflated ego. A friend of mine was asked to relocate in a firm, she refused due to personal reasons, she was harassed daily by the HR fellow, daily he asked her to come to his cabin to mert at 10am and never did meet her and when he did meet her he basically threatened her. (She lives next to a HR person, she was told by her neighbour that "this is what we are paid to do, you should have recorded his audio and threatened to leak audio in public, he'd have come begging to you").

This, well, this is what the dark side can be. Of course, at the end of the day it depends on the org and the kind of people we let grow, if the people in our org are good, capable then it is fine, but from the words of that HR friend of my friend, that's the job of HR.

I agree with your assessment. Quality insight is worth the price, and lack of it will ultimately cost more, whether you want it to or not.

That's a sweeping statement that I utterly disagree with.

We do HR software, I've interacted with many HR people at many companies and I've never even heard of anything as outrageous as the behavior described in this case. In no way is it the way"most HRs" behave.

My experience is different. Every HR person I have ever interacted with was either entirely clueless or immensely evil.

I've had some bad experiences, but I've never felt the need to describe them in those terms. And yes, even in the worse case

This has been my experience too. Always. Without fail.

Though I still believe it must be because many (if not most) firms invest very little in their HR departments and hence they get what they pay for and employees make do with it until something blows up; e.g. scenarios like this. And I am sure there are stellar HR departments out there I have never interacted with.

But then again an industry, a field, or a practice is usually stereotyped based on the reputation of the majority and majority in this case, in my humble opinion, seems to be lying somewhere down south.

OK; how many is that?

This kind of behaviour isn't advertised in the newspaper, you know about it only by experience, the dark side (if you choose to ignore it, please do). This is like the earlier people who said "there is no black swan" because all swans I have seen are white, no, there are events which happen without you being aware of them

33 years across 6 companies, from Fortune 500 to 20-person startups. HR departments have been, without exception, absolutely useless except to protect the company's hide.

> absolutely useless except to protect the company's hide.

But that's my point. If Uber's HR properly cared about protecting the company's hide, they would have immediately disciplined the manager involved, and "sexually propositioning a first-day direct report" is so egregiously over the line that they would have fired the manager.

Uber's HR failed here not because they only cared about protecting the company's hide, but because they didn't.

They did care but in their short sighted way. They don't really mean "save company", it means dancing at the tone of the HR boss, if they truly cared for the company they'd do something about this.

So, they just don't care about employees

> in cases where your goals align with the company's (i.e. you don't want to get harassed, and the company doesn't want to get sued), HR is the place you should be able to go.

That's definitely not the case in my experience. I spent a few months at Fitbit before being harassed by a manager, Sam Trychin. All I wanted to do was do my work, be treated fairly, and not be harassed. HR was definitely not the place to go.

As soon as I made the complaint, Jade Curtis at HR had a meeting with me where she lied to my face (claimed all their managers are exactly the same when I had gone around asking other employees and explicitly confirmed my manager was not following company policy or even treating me fairly compared to his other team members), told me they would refuse to transfer me when I asked about solutions like that, and asserted that the solution was I had to talk more.

The next week they brought me in a fired me with never a written or even verbal warning, and never a negative performance review or a missed meeting, or even a late JIRA implementation. Indeed, everyone said good things about my performance. I had also followed her advice to "talk more". Again they refused to entertain any option of continuing at the company when I offered to try anything that would solve things.

The only thing Fitbit HR cared about was A) to get as much ammunition for a lawsuit as possible, and B) fire me as fast as possible after I was harassed. They didn't try at all to solve things at the company.

In terms of what happened, everything was fairly normal for a couple months. Then one day my wife drove me in to the office because my back was hurting and standing an hour on the BART made things even worse. We followed every rule for her to be in the building. We arrived at 8am after a 2 hour drive, waiting until the front desk was open at 8:30am and got her a badge, then proceeded to my desk which is safely outside all the signs indicating no guests are allowed due to unreleased projects being worked on.

The developer to my right was super friendly and talkative and awesome to my wife - completely normal. My manager came in later (he was rarely around and always left early at 4pm, one of those pre-IPO people who don't put any effort in now that they have their options) and blew up after 10 minutes - super strange. His face turned all red and he was breathing heavy and he took me aside to a private room. He said my wife is too distracting for him to get any work done and she has to move.

We immediately left the area and went to the couches across from the front desk to figure out what to do. Then I took her off campus. She never visited again any day after that (who would bring their wife back when their manager is acting creepy toward her?), but my manager continually blew up about her and made up new rules about her. For example, the week after, he took me aside to a private room again and said she couldn't visit ever again. Meanwhile when other team member's family visited, he was super nice and even booked a conference room for a full day for another team member's kids to visit.

At the same time he started treating me very unfairly. For example, he said any exercise on my part counted as a "long lunch" and wasn't allowed. Meanwhile it was "Steptember" and all employees were encouraged to exercise and had internal teams competing with who could do the most exercise.

Similarly I was in an automatic activity tracking beta test, and all short exercises had failed to trigger the new logic, so I took a 1 hour bike ride on the Embarcadero instead of lunch to try to get a positive result for my beta test data - he blew up about this as well.

The manager claimed the PM had been trying to contact me all day and wasn't able to because I took that bike ride. This was not true. The PM Hipchatted me on the way back from the bike ride, I stopped at a cafe on the way back, and did the code review the PM wanted from me immediately, within 10 minutes.

So the manager was lying about my interaction with the PM to justify his not letting me exercise and his blowing up any time I was away from my desk - which I had to be pretty often because I was writing the Bluetooth pairing code and there's a step that aborts if there are too many devices nearby, like at our desks. The test group lead actually worked from home at least one day a week for precisely this reason and I was only working down the hall at some tables, which should not have been a problem.

Meanwhile everyone else at the company I talked to encouraged exercise, and one manager I talked to even recommended an afternoon nap for getting your energy back to code some more! So my manager was definitely not following company policy or treating me fairly. All HR cared about was firing me, though. I found out later the manager was divorced and that's probably why he went nuts over my wife.

It actually sounds really similar to Susan Fowler's experience at Uber. She had a manager acting creepy and weird because of his own marital issues. Then HR invented fake "undocumented performance issues" that were never communicated before and didn't hold up to scrutiny when other employees were asked about it, so that HR could deny transfer and any other solutions, and the manager could keep looking good at the company.

No. Hire a laywer

Sure..the thing I don't understand is why she didn't go to a lawyer? That would have been the next logical step for me. At least 1 person should get to prison if there is enough evidence collected by multiple women.

I used to have this attitude until I heard harassment stories from two close personal friends in the last year. It's really hard to come forward, especially if you're early in your career and struggled to get any job in the first place.

Apart from potentially being difficult emotionally there are tons of negative outcomes that could come from taking the legal route

Here's a list of potential negative outcomes of lawyering up:

* getting terminated (remember, at-will employment) * getting blacklisted by other teams at your current employer * getting blacklisted by potential future employers. Court cases are often public and in some industries companies are forced to make ongoing litigation public * having your weird texts, emails, personal life and sexual history being dragged out in a public court case * losing and still having to pay all those lawyer fees * winning but not getting any meaningful compensation * getting harassed on twitter/wherever by the alt-right/gamergate crowd.

Yes, people should be getting in trouble but it's a prisoners dilemma where each individual victim is not incentiviced to do anything.

I just came from a different thread on HN, where highly compensated software developers were afraid to even point out to their managers that what they were suggesting was a bad idea for the company. People literally fearing for their jobs, because they want to do their jobs well and not just blindly follow orders that will be costly to their employer.

So you can imagine how many multiples of that it is when you're trying to rock the boat on harassment.

> Here's a list of potential negative outcomes of lawyering up

Aren't most of these potential negative outcomes of suing, not lawyering up?

Having a conversation with a lawyer who specializes in employment law to get a temperature-check on your specific situation (does it qualify as harassment, what are your options, what are likely outcomes of exercising these options given precedent case law, etc) will not result in "having your weird texts, emails, personal life and sexual history being dragged out in a public court case".

Even if you do sue, most lawsuits (especially discrimination ones) are settled out of court, without lascivious details being made public.

> Aren't most of these potential negative outcomes of suing, not lawyering up?

You're kind-of right, but suing only has teeth if you're prepared to go to court and not bluffing. Engaging a lawyer without suing is just going to cost you money. All of the things I said still suck if you're going through depositions, even if everything isn't being made public. Imagine having to sit in a room full of lawyers and explain why you replied 'haha' to an inappropriate text instead of "I'm forwarding this to HR right now."

I feel sad that there's are so many reasons that stop you to d the RIGHT THING.

What is the better way then, beside leaving the company despite doing your job very well?

My advice, save some money, get your resume ready and sue. If they fire you, then sue for retaliation as well.

Suing your employer is often viewed in an extremely bad light by future employers. I'd even go so far as to call it "career suicide."

You'd have to be at a pretty high level for a future employer to do a public records search on you (not to be confused with a background check), thus the compensation you would receive for a retaliatory firing would likely be in the millions (or tens of millions) of dollars as it is often based on lost income and has a punitive component. You'd likely never have to work again.

Many employers of mine have done background checks on me prior to extending an offer. And there's this hip things the kiddos are using called "Duck Duck Go".

Well this individual did those first two things. I think damage has been done to the company already even if litigation wasn't involved. Sadly a lot of companies only get the message when they need pay damages. I get the impression that money doesn't seem to much of a concern for this company however.

You missed a step, which is "make sure you have a competing offer in hand".

A friend of mine experienced a somewhat worse level of harassment at her job. She lawyered up and quickly received an offer for a non-trivial silver parachute, and a mutual non-disparagement agreement on her way out the door.

Seemed like a fine solution, but it soon became evident that she had, in fact, been blacklisted: 18 months passed before anybody would even give her an interview, and that was only after deciding to change industries altogether. That silver parachute was, in hindsight, wholly inadequate compensation. Meanwhile her harasser has continued his career with no repercussions whatsoever.

When these problems are cultural / institutional, the threat of a lawsuit will neither benefit the victim nor effect any real change. Takes something more sustained and substantial than that.

Blacklisting employees for reasons like this is unbelievably crazy illegal, just so everyone knows. I strongly encourage anyone with knowledge of or possessing any such blacklists to blow the whistle on this, hard.

It's not necessarily really a blacklist, but when the court case comes up when the employer googles your name... companies like to claim to be pro-equality since they get good press for it, but they're not actually going to put that to any sort of test. Much easier to hire somebody who's not proven themselves willing to stand up for their rights.

It sounds like it was settled before anything went to court, so it's unclear that anything would even come up in a Google search. And yet employers are still finding out somehow.

Word of mouth is powerful.

Oh yeah, it's not remotely legal by any standard whatsoever. The problem is that it's virtually impossible to prove.

In my friend's case, she was at the director level of a large publicly-traded company. Particularly as you approach the top of the that kind of corporate hierarchy, the world becomes very small, and good-old-boy dynamics start to dominate. There's no formal blacklist, of course -- just the opportunity to meet your frenemy from her previous employer down at the bar, where he can confidentially warn you to "watch out for that one: she's a troublemaker". Nothing more needs to be said, and certainly nothing needs to be written.

I suspect that hiring decisions at lower levels will be both more process-driven and better-documented, so it might be more possible to prove the existence of blacklists there (even if it's still far from easy). But near the top of the pyramid, I have great trouble seeing how the punitive legal action can realistically be used to break up the good-old-boy network.

Seeing this play out has actually changed my mind on the necessity of having gender quotas for management and boards. Previously I'd been opposed on vaguely libertarian grounds; now I see it as the only practical way of disrupting the good-old-boy networks that genuinely do a lot of harm. (Society is genuinely damaged -- depriving itself of so much talent -- by systematic bias against women).

I believe that blacklisting is something that happens in cases like this, and I wonder how it gets coordinated. Especially when there's no public record of a court case. Simply that every time her previous employer was called for a reference, they gave her an unflattering one? Or is it more proactive, like some sort of list that's known in the HR world of certain industries?

Employers aren't supposed to call previous employers for references unless you OK it first, and many employers have explicit policies to not give references because of the potential for being sued.

Of course, it does happen, in various ways. The way to find out is to find a sympathetic recruiter (or, a "recruiter" who's really your friend), and have them call for a reference for you. There's good fodder for a lawsuit here.

I think what Fowler did was very brave and perhaps far more impactful than hiring a lawyer.

This is hitting all the major news outlets, the CEO and the board are already promising "urgent" investigative action. And, oh yeah, a company valued at multi-billions is about to be hit with publicity which they will pay dearly for as #deleteuber starts trending again, at a time when angry people are sick of reading about the latest Trump zinger.

In the best case scenario a lawyer would have gotten her a modest pay out in exchange for shutting up, far more likely however would be a disappointing outcome and blacklisting.

Also, at the start of the week's news cycle... I don't know if she has any malice, but if one wants to metaphorically burn a company down, it's good timing. Also it's President's Day, so Dolan Trump will probably be want his day off instead of making headlines.

It may seem hard to understand why one wouldn't go to a lawyer, but think about this:

Consider that the people who are wronged in these situations didn't set themselves those days to be harassed. Now they should not only stand what's been done to them, but also drop everything they were doing that day to sue? I think there's an understandable tradeoff that people go thru in those circumstance. They push the issue as seems appropriate in term of benefit/time. Where that line lies depends on the situation, the people involved and how much they enjoy spending their time litigating instead of doing XYZ other thing.

Lots of people don't even bother going through the hurdle of reporting to HR, being interviewed, being questioned, being doubted, having to spend hours or days handling the issue, instead of doing their work. Bringing that to the next level: not many people desire to spend their time suing instead of doing whatever it is they'd rather do with their time.

Arguably, issues should be pursued to educate and deter. But up until which point? I think you'll agree that it's understandable why someone would choose that reporting to HR was enough and suing wasn't worth the trouble.

I agree with everybody who's pointing out the time, effort, and cost of suing. In this case, I think consulting a lawyer to negotiate a severance agreement might have worked well, but that would have essentially negated her ability to write this blow post. I'm glad she chose to write the post as a service to the tech community rather than seek a big payout.


A union representative is the next logical step. They will be able to represent you anonymously at first, and bring a collective action against the perpetrator if there have been multiple incidents against multiple victims.

If you wish to take it to court yourself, then they may also be able to provide you with or help you find an appropriate lawyer for the case.

> A union representative is the next logical step.

Unions can have benefits sometimes, but handling issues related to harassment is not one.

> They will be able to represent you anonymously at first, and bring a collective action against the perpetrator if there have been multiple incidents against multiple victims.

Or, if the perpetrator is a peer but holds a position of power within the union, they may simply decide to ignore you, as HR did in this case.

If you speak out against the union rep's decision (such as by writing a blog post like this), and the union's charter has a clause prohibiting public opposition to the union (which is legal and very common), then you could get your membership terminated. This not only means you lose your current job, but you could effectively get blacklisted across the industry if there are no non-union shops. Unlike shared employer blacklists, which are illegal, this is perfectly legal because the union isn't sharing a blacklist - they just so happen to have a monopoly on hiring and also have the legal right to refuse you membership.

Ironically, it would be illegal for the company to fire you in this position, but unions have far fewer restrictions on whether or not they can deny or terminate membership, even in retaliation.

Why representing members at grievance hearings is a union bread and butter issue

> Why representing members at grievance hearings is a union bread and butter issue

In theory. And disciplining or terminating employees who expose the company to well-documented, open-and-shut lawsuits is an HR bread and butter issue. Yet here we are.

If you really want someone who will be legally bound to represent you without conflict of interest, and with legal protection against retaliation, you want a lawyer, not a union rep. And you can do that with or without a union. (And employment attorneys already operate on contingency for most straightforward cases like these).

One of the major roles of unions nowadays is providing access to legal counsel (specifically lawyers with experience in workplace issues).

But are they your lawyer, or the union's lawyer here? Companies have lawyers too, but they're not your lawyer.

Obviously it varies, but in my experience it's "Here's a list of lawyers we have vetted and consider to be qualified in matters relating to employment". Sometimes it's "We'll also pay for an hour of their time for an initial consultation".

A union representative is the next logical step.

Are you based outside the US? Unions aren't particularly prevalent in the US, at least not in professional fields.

Remember what happened to Ellen Pao and Julie Ann Horvath? Remember what happened to the number of women who came forward saying that Trump sexually harassed them?

Saying "sue" is easy if you're not the one that has to deal with the fallout from it. Several months if not years dragged through the courts, having to relive the experience. Being blacklisted from the industry and unable to find a job. Constant harassment from frog trolls who seem to pop up every time a woman tries to assert that she's a human being.

If only it was that simple. Most people cannot afford justice in the US.

Yes it's either collusion or NCI (Non Culpable Incompetence) Gross misconduct is another potential

Essentially they opened up the company for a class action lawsuit.

Are there even enough women there to form a class?

There's no legal minimum but it's more difficult to form a class with a handful of people.

OT but I've been wondering about this. I work in South Africa and have done so for some really big corporates as well as small boutique companies.

Without fail, every HR department has been the one department where you will find the majority of staff are women.

I don't know if this is the same everywhere else in the world, but it strikes me as particularly insidious in this Uber case where, in an obviously apparent misogynistic culture, a female employee is having to report these issues to a female HR rep who in turn is being forced to toe whatever dubious, unwritten company line Uber works under.

I mean this passage here...

" She then asked me if women engineers at Uber were friends and talked a lot, and then asked me how often we communicated, what we talked about, what email addresses we used to communicate, which chat rooms we frequented, etc."

...made my skin crawl.

I just think HR in general is an extremely subversive environment.

If HR had actually done their job, Kalanick wouldn't be spending a Sunday night struggling to reattach his unicorn's horn.

HR is just the messenger. This rests squarely on the shoulders of Uber's management. They were informed and refused to act. The buck stops with them.

Also, having the number of woman engineers drop from 25% to less than 3% on that team should have been a red flag well in advance of this ever being published.

There's indeed a lot to hang on upper management, but HR has responsibilities delegated to them for a reason. I'm sure heads will roll, but presumably they've been cruising without an HR reboot for years, so a lot of habits and perspectives are going to be entrenched.

Unfortunately more often that not HR, in my limited experience, does not have these responsibilities delegated to them.

This case sounds like either completely inexperienced and untrained HRBPs OR they're being overinfluenced/overrun by management. Possibly both.

I would guess more the former. Execs think it's boring (or worse: a blind spot), consequently don't hire well for the positions, the pretty soon the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

Good point. I gotta wonder about their general competence. What are the credentials to be an HR person? Here, even if they really wanted to discredit her and protect the company (so assuming they completely were not prepared to take her side, ever) they acted in a very stupid manner it seems.

Is there an HR major? Or is it MBA student who never graduate? How does one end up picking a good HR person vs just a friend-of-a-friend? Programmers go to an interviews and they get slammed with whiteboard silly algorithm questions. What kind of question do HR people have to answer to pass the test?

It seems here protecting the company would have been firing the person proposing sex on the spot. Blog author even had the chat logs as evidence from what I understand!

Now the answer is probably they had defended and covered up that manager's behavior before. Blog alludes to that. So it became a pattern. Then just when another similar complaint popped up, admitting it was wrong and doing anything besides what they did before, would have meant acknowledging how wrong they have been in the past. "But we've already covered up for him 10 times, why is this special now..." kind of deal.

>Now the answer is probably they had defended and covered up that manager's behavior before. Blog alludes to that. So it became a pattern. Then just when another similar complaint popped up, admitting it was wrong and doing anything besides what they did before, would have meant acknowledging how wrong they have been in the past. "But we've already covered up for him 10 times, why is this special now..." kind of deal.

That analysis lets management offer HR as a scapegoat too easily, IMO. Why was HR willing to defend and cover up that managers behavior the first time? "If you make things difficult for me, things will end up difficult for you", and you end up promoting sycophants and pushing out anyone with a spine.

In other words, HR doesn't create corporate culture. Management does. And the culture they wound up with both convinces managers that they can get away with this BS, and HR to cover it up.

They were gaslighting her. This is how incompetent people do cover ups. Well maybe they were not so incompetent but had never faced anyone clever enough to see through the bullshit.

HR is subordinate to management. It sounds as though management was unwilling to take action to remove the responsible individual.

I think it's likely they were just "out of sight, out of mind" about HR details; it's not the most exciting part of running a business. They didn't get to call it "Boober" by bragging about new funds in the 401(k) plan.

I guess to some degree "protecting the company" involves implementing procedures that protect the company from losing a class action lawsuit and damaging their ability to recruit engineers, right?

not in their short sighted world, shortsightedness like this is the major reason why companies stagnate and refuse to innovate, they don't want to touch their cash cow

it also depends on what the projected cost of class action lawsuit. My understanding is, it's usually a fraction of what it could have been. it's mostly anectodal, though (reading news online, etc).

Sure, but what's the alternative, especially in a case like this?

Your manager is engaging in harassment, HR is where you "should" raise this. Her following protocol also makes her case stronger I would argue. You gave your company the chance to make things right. After that I'd say the gloves could come off if that's the route you want to go.

In countries where unions do work, that is another door to go search for help.

> In countries where unions do work, that is another door to go search for help.

That assumes your union rep is inclined to help you. In practice (not principle), they have the same incentives as the other managers and HR do in this story. The union rep could decide that the harasser is more important to their union, politically, than you are, and decide not to take action.

Plus, the union can simply terminate your membership as retaliation. For a closed shop, that's equivalent to firing you, but without many of the legal protections that come against wrongful termination.

Which is why I added the remark "do work", not when they are just yet another way to take vacations.

> Which is why I added the remark "[in countries where unions] do work", not when they are just yet another way to take vacations.

That's not a matter that's specific to a particular country, though. It's inherent in the nature of a union structure (and arguably inherent in the nature of any hierarchical human structure, which is a superset of "unions").

You can find situations like the one I described in any country, not just the US.

Inherent in hierarchical structures, yes, but unions don't have to be hierarchical. See: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-syndicalism There are numerous such functioning unions throughout the world. Small compared to bureaucratic unions, most under various forms of state repression, but very successful and effective in labour struggles they participate in.

Yeah my Union (even researchers and engineers were union members until we became "managers") had its ranks filled with senior folks who were rotating in from corporate. There was more collusion than conflict I think.

> what's the alternative

Contact your state's labour commissioner. If you received stock or stock options, contact your state securities commissioner. Otherwise, suing is tried and true.

Suing is a surefire pathway to being made a pariah, case in point Ellen Pao. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pao_v._Kleiner_Perkins

That article doesn't support anything about her being a pariah.

Anecdotally, I can confirm that most mentions of her on Reddit that I've seen are very pejorative toward her.

Not sure if your anecdote applies here: as Reddit CEO, she made a number of decisions that were unpopular with mods and users alike - entirely not related to her court action.

At which point people decided to use her court action as part of their "proof" that she's a "SJW" and therefore to be hated.

And you are a case in point; spez (Steve Huffman, CEO) actually made those decisions and used Pao as a fall-woman.

> And you are a case in point

I wasn't aware that spez was co-CEO with ekjp... I thought he only became CEO afterwards. Even if the board/spez forced her to make all of the unpopular decisions (there were many), the buck still stopped with her as the CEO[1], fall-woman or not. Also, why did spez want Victoria gone? He made Ellen Pao fire her too, right?

1. https://www.reddit.com/r/announcements/comments/3cbo4m/we_ap...

Actually kn0thing/co-founder Alexis Ohanian fired Victoria, but Ellen Pao ended up taking the blame for that too.


Note, I'm not affiliated with Pao, I just thought her treatment by the reddit community was extremely disappointing.

I thought that was because the closed the subreddits focused on harassment. e.g. r/FatPeopleHate. Talking shit about her law suit was just a wedge issue to get under her skin by people predisposed to abusing others.

Yeah I can't find it either. All I can find is this bit that says she sued her employer, alleging gender discrimination, but the jury found in favour of her employer (10-2 and 9-3). I suppose people might be a bit wary of her after that...

> ...pa<>...

I understand that English has absorbed that word and its meaning in the current sense. But please don't use that word. That is like the n-word in south india. It is specifically used to refer to people in a derogatory way.

"Pariah" might be "like the n-word in south India" because in India the relevant castes and ethnic groups are still there and applying the term to an Indian is an actual insult, but for everyone else it's a purely metaphorical reference to a specific and remote historical instance of people treating other people with extreme contempt or worse.

I didn't intend it to be offensive, just to illustrate her persona non grata status after suing for discrimination. My dictionary says the offensive racial use is historical, not current.

Pariah is a perfectly valid and non-offensive word.

Don't think you are right on this...

PS : putting this here for those who may be misinformed

I hear this truism a lot, along with "companies must put the profit obligation first." It's only true in a very limited technical sense. When someone is harassing you, "protecting the company" generally means making sure that person doesn't harass you or anyone else, often by firing them. Because if they don't, the company is at risk of massive liability.

That doesn't mean they can't be terrible at their jobs, or fail to understand what the true purpose of their job is. But that's a potentiality that's not limited to HR.

*Not a lawyer, but this is what I was told at my employer's harassment and legal training, which all employees are obligated to attend.

It's true, and to some extent the problem is that you hear about the bad HR stories, but rarely the good ones - in which they quietly take action, but nobody except the parties involved ever notice. When HR does their job right, nobody other than those people even notices that they're there.

That said, lots of companies have HR departments that are terrible, so it all depends on whether you think yours is trustworthy and competent or not.

Kind of the same can be said about IT. If they do their job correctly then nobody should notice they are there.

Also about finance/payroll and others.

...along with "companies must put the profit obligation first."

At risk of labouring your point; which also certainly isn't true in a legal (and thus actual) sense.


This gets posted from time to time, but if you work for a company, you really owe it to yourself to read Corporate Confidential.


There is a corollary of this which is underappreciated as well: your employer (the whole company, not just HR) is not your friend. No matter how friendly or helpful they seem, their job is not to protect you. It's to protect themselves.

That's true, but in this case HR wasn't really the company's friend either. The overwhelming sense that I got from reading her post is that Uber's company culture is super broken. Everyone's looking out for themselves, rather than the company, including the HR department.

If they were actually trying to help the company, they would have taken action to reduce its liability. Instead, they played politics.

That's a very American thing to say.

Sorry, their job is to protect the management.

That's only in theory.

In many companies, the apparent job of HR is to allow the HR director to act like a little Napoleon, even if it harms the company substantially.

This. HR is there to protect the company and not to help employees. They have to justify their salary somehow.

If they ask you to sign something it is usually not in your interest to do what they ask.

This is a bit hyperbolic, please take a step back and consider if you would actually say "you have to justify your salary somehow" in person to folks in your company's HR department.

HR does protect the company, but it also helps employees tremendously. I've had several beneficial experiences with Human Resources folks. One company setting a bad example is no reason to dump on an entire profession.

When someone senior gets fired, I'll start taking them seriously. Until then, it's all PR.

I think one senior person isn't enough in a case like this. What is described here is an entire malfunctioning department, which in my opinion, couldn't be attributed to anywhere below the C-level. Sure perhaps there is somebody who can be fingered "VP of HR" or whatever, but anybody who has so little visibility into their department that this type of scenario could evolve is clearly not auditing what's happening levels beneath them.

Yes, exactly. Nothing should be off the table if this is nearly as wide-ranging as alleged, up to and including Travis Kalanick's termination for cause as CEO.

Sure, whatever, because of one mid-level manager being a perv?

Because Uber appears to have a culture of accepting that behaviour and lying to employees to deliberately perpetuate it.

One of the most fundamental purposes of HR is to hear employee complaints, particularly legal ones and to get them solved to both moral and legal satisfaction. It sounds like this HR department did everything exactly backward by focusing on hiding problems rather than addressing them, and they would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for those meddling bloggers.

Assuming the events happened as described, the fact that the manager was not immediately terminated makes the CEO directly culpable for illegal behavior.

So, yeah.

I don't see how a free-willed HR department with actual managers could accept managers adjusting performance reviews to suit their personal purposes. Even the most callous and treacherous evil HR officers would want to be in control.

>I think one senior person isn't enough in a case like this.

How can you make a statement like this without knowing anything about the details of the case? We have an allegation; a big one, but that's it. How many heads would you like to see in advance?

It's not so much a number of heads, but what I reject is the common notion that somebody can be so many levels above a problem that they are absolved of responsibility.

Let me ask you this: How many people in the HR department would you need to see leave before you'd feel comfortable having your sister work at Uber? What would you need to see to have trust?

Why would you take them seriously if they fire someone senior just to respond to the public outcry but did nothing when this wasn't public?

Would that mean you could never take Uber seriously as an technology company again? I suppose under certain circumstances a company does deserve a death sentence of sorts in the court of public opinion.

Fair point.

Someone senior? Yeah right, it'll be some HR patsy or just "the person responsible has left the company before this article".

But they're all top performers.

What does that even mean at Uber? They burn more money than everyone else?

It sounds like "performance" is Uber code for "political clout".

Sexually-harassing manager who HR is too afraid to discipline meaningfully? High performer.

Manager who illegally threatens an employee to protect his manager? High performer.

Productive engineer who they never found a substantive reason to criticize? Not a high performer.

The ones who made the political maneuvers to garner political power within the organization are the "high performers". Fowler, on the other hand, worked hard, but didn't play the political game. She also reported a lot of people to HR, which probably earned her a lot of political enemies. Remember those "undocumented performance problems"?

(But I discount this interpretation a tiny bit because it relies on a person's account of their own performance. I think that her post is credible (she sure staked a lot on it), but I'm wary of all first-person performance claims. Nothing specific to her, just human nature.)

It's a reference to an alleged excuse Uber management used to have HR not take corrective action by people who violated company policy and were good at their job.

This is much, much stronger than a typical PR response. Heads may roll.

Why are you already calling for someone to be fired? No evidence of wrongdoing has been presented.

You are assuming that the allegations are true.

From what I've heard, it seems plausible that the alleged culture may exist at this company. But I don't take allegations to be true simply because they have been made - as is, in my opinion and in the opinion of the legal system of the United States, the correct perspective.

That is a very unwise way to look at evidence. You can't apply the legal standard of evidence to the rest of the world, because courtrooms have facilities that make evidence highly available. You have discovery, expert analysis, compelled testimony, and the possibility of sealing records to protect the parties involved. When evidence should be available, absence of evidence is strong evidence of absence.

Outside of court, things work differently. But we have other ways of dealing with evidence and trust, which wouldn't work very well in the courtroom.

But you already know this, and I can prove it. Suppose a close friend, who you trust, tells you that someone broke into his house and stole his TV. Are you going to set aside judgment about this situation until you can collect more evidence? Are you going to demand that he show you security camera footage? Probably not, and rightly so.

You believe your friend because of reputation. Your friend has staked your trust in him against his lying. You both know that if you find out that he lied, it will hurt your friendship, and you will be unlikely to trust him in the future. This is very much like the concept of precommitment in game theory. He has set up the situation so that if his claims turn out to be false, he's likely to suffer negative consequences. This allows him to produce evidence seemingly out of thin air, by tying his personal interests to the veracity of his claim.

Now look at the two parties in this case. Fowler has staked her professional reputation on the truth of her allegations. She posted this under her real name, on her blog which is the second Google result for her name. If she turns out to be lying, things will go very badly for her. Not only will it be difficult for her to find a company willing to hire her, but Uber could sue her for defamation.

Uber has staked... nothing. Indeed, they've done the opposite. Rather than cutting off their escape routes to establish credibility, they sacrificed credibility to buy an escape route. They publicly stated that their CEO is too unaware of the goings on at his own company to confirm or deny the allegations. They took a hit now so that they have more flexibility later.

It would be hard to overstate how bad this looks. There's no good outcome for the move Uber just made, which means that they're probably hedging against something even worse. Barring the possibility that Uber has no idea how to handle basic PR scenarios, the only reasonable explanation is that they know they're holding a weak hand.

I entirely see your point and think you're correct in your analysis.

Personally, I would like to give the other involved party a reasonable chance to try to respond with ether a refutation or with intended next steps before grabbing a pitchfork.

To be clear, I have no sympathy for Uber and have something like an 85% expectation that the current accusations as accurate. I do find value in erring on the side of giving all parties a full say and a full chance to institute some sort of remediation, if possible, before final judgment.

For example, many media outlets have picked up this story, and one such outlet came across today (wish I had saved the link) also mentioned alleged threats of physical violence from managers to employees. In my workplace, I've heard a manager joke "now that you've seen this, I'll have to kill you", which was clearly a joke but which could be portrayed as a death threat by a (perhaps rightfully) disgruntled employee.

When there are personal situations and emotional hurt involved, things can get skewed further than they need to be, even if the objective reality is already one to warrant raising an alarm.

Point taken, however, in its entirety. I could have communicated my perspective much better.

> If she turns out to be lying, things will go very badly for her. Not only will it be difficult for her to find a company willing to hire her, but Uber could sue her for defamation.

Exactly. Given the risks, there should be some evidence. Perhaps it's not getting released at this stage to strengthen her legal position.

It is popular in the USA right now to silence rational, evidence based discussions. Now more than ever it is of vital importance that we stick to values of relying on open dialogue, reason, and facts. If these values only apply when they are convenient and comfortable for you then they aren't your values, but instead a rhetorical tool you abuse.

As a community of above-average intelligence and reason, I am disappointed to see hacker news commenters abuse their power to silence requests for evidence. If you approach things objectively you must always seek evidence. In this case the evidence shared thus far is character-based. That doesn't obviate the need or prevent the ability to have a rational, logical discussion about evidence.

Please, go ahead and silence this post as well. Show me how badly you deserve your current political situation and fractured nation. If this community behaves this way, I don't have much hope for the world.

Given the risks, her lawyer would advise her to avoid making the details of the case public. You're not Sherlock Holmes. Unless you have years of experience in law, you have no business scrutinizing evidence.

>Given the risks, her lawyer would advise her to avoid making the details of the case public.

>>It's not getting released at this stage to strengthen her legal position.

Did you miss this statement, or simply fail to comprehend it?

> Unless you have years of experience in law, you have no business scrutinizing evidence.

I'm glad to hear it. This is a valid option! We should rely on the experts and refrain from making any judgments based on this until those experts reach a determination.

Wait, no, you're just another person who shouts down any views that don't match your own, contributing to insular, prejudiced communities who never communicate or have compassion for each other. Enjoy the state of your country; people like you created it.

>Wait, no, you're just another person who shouts down any views that don't match your own

"Show me evidence" isn't a view

>Enjoy the state of your country; people like you created it.

I quite like Denmark these days.

Wow no. Every rational person should be scrutinizing evidence. Not to do so would be insane. But the evidence here clearly points in her favor.

When was the last time you read a legal brief for fun? "Scrutinizing evidence" here is a technical task done by experts.

You are defining evidence as "legal evidence", and you're the only one using that definition here.

The allegations are trivially falsifiable. Did multiple women report the same person for harassment? Were multiple accusers told that it was his first offense? If the answer is yes then heads should roll.

Why were reporters of harassment falsely told it was the accused harasser's first offense? Good question. There are several possible answers. Some more malicious than others. But they all end with several high level someone's losing their head.

If the allegations are true, yes, heads should roll. Why are there no examples of this wealth of evidence that has been claimed to exist?

I think what the parent is implying is that it would be career suicide for anyone to make such serious accusations unless they have considerable evidence to back them up.

I mean let's face it: Susan doesn't stand to gain much from publicly accusing her former employer of harboring and shielding sexual harassers, but she has a lot to lose. Heck, she probably has hurt her employment prospects quite a bit, since many future employers will label her as a "troublemaker" and refuse to hire her.

My guess: Susan has hard evidence that she can use if Uber comes after her with a defamation lawsuit. Otherwise Uber management wouldn't bother with this investigation (not to mention publicly announce that there is an investigation).


> The nature of the "women in tech" scene is such that you can make a niche for yourself by complaining even if your complaints are later shown to be bullshit.

I was trying to put you down with a joke, but I seem to momentarily be as unimaginative as a woman who hasn't yet gotten a 6-figure settlement.

– It's false to claim that Pao's complaints were "shown to be bullshit". She simply failed to convince a jury – possibly made up of people like you.

– I'm dumbfounded how any decent person could have watched the deluge of sewage that was the Pao case and not come away with sympathy for her. There were literally millions of people posting the vilest, meanest stuff about her – everywhere.

– The current Reddit leadership has clearly expressed that Pao had to leave not because of anything she had actually done, but because of the insane hostility of users.

- It's insane to believe that people would, in any meaningful number, systematically make up such claim, enjoy the process, and repeat it. From anything I've seen (possibly including this case), victims take extraordinary measure to avoid a lawsuit.

I will preface this comment by saying that I think this may be a true allegation just as much be a false allegation; I, like any other Internet commenter, do not know enough to be able to judge.

What I do want to say, however, is that in the United States there is, in fact, currently a culture that not only favors women making accusations of sexism and harassment, but also one that makes it taboo to express the normal standard of "innocent until proven guilty" in cases when the accuser is a woman.

To be clear, I am not saying that this accusation must be necessarily false or with some sort of ulterior motive. As far as I can tell, there are more than a few places in the US where this sort of thing not only exists but is considered normal, and that is a legitimate issue that needs correction ASAP.

But we still have the concept of "innocent until proven guilty", and we do have the effect I mentioned above in cases where the accuser is female. In this case, we have a blog post and nothing more, and so I think it is not only premature but also morally and ethically wrong to bring the pitchforks out immediately.

> culture that not only favors women making accusations of sexism and harassment

No there isn't, or we wouldn't be having this conversation!

Culture is tilted very heavily against the accuser and they are usually disbelieved and nothing is done. As in this case.

Note that "innocent until proven guilty" is only the criminal standard of proof, whereas civil law is "balance of probabilities" and the court of public opinion .. well, that does whatever the hell it likes.

Verbal testimony IS a kind of evidence.

I civil cases such as this the standard is "preponderance of evidence" meaning "more likely to be true than not".

At this point, considering both the detailed description and the public record showing that Emil Michael and others at the very top of Uber like to behave like drunken frat boys, that standard seems easily met to me.

I find it disconcerning that they did regular performance reviews, and she aparrently scored very highly on them. But later those ratings were discounted by some "hidden" factor.

Why would I waste time on performance reviews when I'm not openly giving feedback to the employee? How can an organization efficiently distribute team members based on metrics derived from performance reviews when there is such an impactful but undocumented component of the review?

I think that the "undocumented component" is undocumented for the very same reason that companies have an undocumented component with technical interviews - they're trying not to get themselves into a potential legal situation.

That's not what I got out of it at all. My take on it was that the "undocumented component" was made up after the fact, as a retroactively fabricated excuse to remove her eligibility to transfer teams. The same situation happens all the time in a gender-neutral way in the form of raises and promotions that are promised but then fail to materialize, with some new excuse being created out of thin air.

Also, my company very explicitly does not have an undocumented component to technical interviews, as that could open up all sorts of legal liability. The interviewers write up their feedback and the feedback is then evaluated by a neutral hiring committee who never met the interviewee in question. Keeping the paper trail of 100% of the information that went into the hiring decision is the best defense against possible discrimination claims.

These events could not have happened without the CEO himself setting an example and establishing an unwritten policy in the company about how to deal with such issues. It is not a matter of one person or team or manager or event. The series of events establish a pattern. The investigation will just be an eye-wash, with a gentle firing of a low level HR executive and some new internal policies that will be disregarded immediately.

>Ms. Fowler’s account is another sign of Silicon Valley’s struggle with women’s issues and diversity in a male-dominated engineering environment.

That's a hell of a claim since this is a "typical corporate America" type of problem.

Well there are some typical corporate American companies that have this problem. But I would argue that (almost?) all tech companies have this problem.

What?? Everywhere I worked a screenshot like what she's describing would get you fired. Over office chat even?? It's not even hearsay. Someone can bring up the exact chat history.

Ok, how many people have you seen get fired for this?

At least one, maybe two.

You're seeing the tip of the iceberg. But keep your head in the sand if it's more comfortable.

That's great! It sounds like you have worked at places that follow the rules.

Please don't use your personal observations to discount the growing collection of evidence that this sort of thing is happening at tech companies around the world, and not just in the bay area.

Think about what you are saying using your brain. It is equivalent to "please stop giving me your anecdotes, because they conflict with these other anecdotes that I like better".

If you're going to use personal experience as evidence for some phenomenon, you need to accept personal experience from every angle, not just the angle that agrees with your perception of the phenomenon.

Fortunately I don't need to think too much about what I am saying on this topic, because this has been an area that's been examined by lawyers, law makers, and researchers for at least 20 years. There is a growing mountain of evidence that can only be ignored by those who are uneducated or unaware of the topic (and no-one in tech other than recent graduates should be at this point). It's time for everyone in tech to stop ignoring the problem, and start publicly and privately calling out any and all bad actors on this even if it destroys the careers of a few "high performers" (even setting aside the fact that said high performers with bad behaviour often drag down the performance of the teams and organizations they are a part of, offsetting any of the gains). Since this is hacker news and not a blog post or paper, I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to find more evidence of that claim - why not start with this http://lmgtfy.com/?q=impact+of+bias+on+team+performance

These are just a short list of samples of articles that are based on surveys, studies, and legal opinions (and that's all I could find in literally the time it took me to pour my espresso this morning).







Is there a centralized repository of this evidence? If not, maybe that would be a good thing to create as a reference.

What corporate American companies don't have this problem?

Typical business problem around the world.


Eh, the first incident struck me as pretty standard up until transfer or be punished, it's usually transfer or deal with it the first time. Not that that justifies it, just that's how it would play out. Everything else is way, way out of the ordinary for typical corporate America.

The HR and management system described sounds unusually dysfunctional.

I just find the whole leather jacket incident incredibly baffling.

It's just a few hundred bucks. Is Uber that short of cash? It's ridiculous.

It's only baffling until you realize that it really just is horrible, blatant sexism of the worst kind. That entire department had turned so corrosively sexist (going from 24 to 3% women) that it needed to finish the job and get the rest of the women out by making it plain that they weren't welcome. We're talking about the people in power here being so horribly sexist that they have to force the women out in order to feel comfortable being themselves.

Any company that cares one inkling about diversity will go out of its way to make minorities feel comfortable. We're dealing with the opposite situation here: A department actively working to drive out diversity.

Thats not how I read it. They tried to push out the last few women, while scheming to keep them? Why hire them in the first place?

I take it at face value, Oblivious Employees/Managers thought that not paying extra for women's jackets was equality.

> Why hire them in the first place?

Because they were qualified applicants and the hiring manager wanted to not get sued for blatant hiring discrimination?

These folks clearly don't deserve to be taken at face value. Otherwise the "Everyone is getting jackets" could have been properly taken at value to mean that everyone, including women were getting them. So we're past believing them at face value now, great.

So why did they really make this an issue? Probably some combination of:

1. Someone was playing politics and wanted a head pat for saving money (conversely, they did not want to reprimanded for going over-budget).

2. Women are often perceived as less assertive, so they thought they would be less likely to raise a stink over a "minor issue" like a free jacket. (The really pessimistic side of me says someone thought "Women don't wear leather jackets anyhow, it's not stylish enough. Why spend money on something they won't use?")

I don't for one second believe they actually thought "equality" came into play at all.

It doesn't seem like they're trying to actively force women out. It seems like they're such creeps that no women (or grown men) would want to be there.

They need that money to keep subsidizing my flat rate rides.

It is absurd. They don't think "We don't hire and retain enough women to get a bulk discount on their gear.", they think "Their fault for being a woman."

After reading the entire blog post, and also reading that the CEO is concerned, I want heads rolling. Specially those who were involved from HR, managers. I think it will centrate the people on doing their job, not doing anything aside from this.

What a bad image UBER is getting for toxic "high performers".

I'm worried that the head of HR will be fired as a scapegoat or something, when they were never empowered to truly deal with issues like this in the first place, and that such policy will continue. If the company culture is toxic to begin with, and "high performers" are retained at all cost, firing one head of HR makes no difference if, afterwards, HR is still not going to be empowered with truly addressing these issues.

The head of HR wasn't reported, that's what I believe it happen. That's why now it is on duty. I think this has happen in middleground, not the highest spheres. Well, the CTO is involved, and as manager, he had to work on that matter from day 1. The CTO will not be kicked, of course, but it tells you how much the company will do with this.

Why does everything involved with UBER, sound like it's run by some type of frat house?

My theory, as a casual observer and not speaking from experience (aside from having been a 20-something white male), is going straight from college to founding a company with m/billions at stake has the tendency to breed and feed unhealthy perspectives. Not always, not inherently, and certainly not irreparably, but ostensibly more often than not for the SV unicorns.

Crisis PR 101. Announce an investigation, "discipline" a few anonymous people or fire the most egregious offender, announce a new code of conduct, and then hope the furor blows over in a week or two.

But nothing will really change if this is part of the ingrained culture at Uber. Fish rots from the head, as someone noted in yesterday's thread.

I've always wondered if the high profile fallout actually causes any change. From anecdotal evidence I feel like nothing really changes. It's mostly people in some bubble that get really upset and then a week later everyone forgets what exactly they were upset about.

The Uber CEO did withdraw from the U.S. President's economic council after widespread outcry from a vocal portion of customers and a high proportion of employees. This is not an example of a major change, but it did demonstrate that Uber is responsive to public opinion.

I think it's fair to say that Uber only takes corrective actions only when there is public outrage. Otherwise, breaking the laws and unethical behavior is all well and good.

> I've always wondered if the high profile fallout actually causes any change

Underlying personality disorders are a relatively constant percentage of society. Barring near-universal awareness of these disorders and how to counteract them, no, nothing will change until human nature changes.

As a meta, it seems to be an infallible rule of Hacker News that any discussion about the relationship between men and women turns into an angry painful mess in no time. Maybe we should look into this anger itself rather than draw all sorts of conclusions from cases of which we don't know half of what really happened.

It's similar to conversations between conservatives and liberals. Both groups have implicit assumptions about how the world works. They have implicit value judgements, in preferring one thing versus another.

Conversation almost never describes these implicit assumptions. As a result, each side ends up thinking that the other side is stupid, obtuse, biased, etc.

Getting to the underlying biases is hard.

As evidence, see any number of newspaper headlines, including this one:


Ignoring the Trump bit, the headline says "kills 30 civilians, including 10 women and children"

Now, try to prove that the male / female victims were treated equally. And, that there is no implicit bias in male / female relationships.

I'm not saying that such bias is good, bad, or ugly. I'm saying it exists. And it underlies a lot of conversations, without anyone realizing it.

Which goes a long way to explaining why things end up as you pointed out.

I think in a lot of cases it's more that:

1: We know the assumptions.

2: We know the differences are often intractable (I will never relent on full LGBTQ equality, for example)

3: We can't just split off and do our own thing because we need each other for civilization to function, so we have to deal with them.

Some of us can avoid dealing with it by moving to the city/suburbs/exurbs where there's more unity, but that just postpones dealing with the problems we ran from. Eventually, elections happen, and you realize putting 50-5000 miles between you and that person who finally motivated you to leave didn't actually resolve your conflicts.

That headline, and your comment on it, is a thought provoking example. I can easily imagine people with all sorts of opinions overlaying their own biases/preferences on what you said, and then responding reflexively. It's quite frustrating to watch people 'talk past' each other in this way.

> It's similar to conversations between conservatives and liberals.

This is a terrible analogy. We're talking about one group's lived experiences, not a political issue where there are equally valid opposing viewpoints.

> Maybe we should look into this anger itself...

Not a bad idea in and of itself. But that'll just lead to a bunch of armchair psychologists "discovering" what they already wanted to be true. Undoubtedly a complete net-negative unless there are also some heavy hitters here on HN. Which I doubt, because I rarely even see pop-psych analysis posted beyond the current NorCal memes about what constitute a "healthy" temperament.

It might be helpful if there was some sort of statistic for comment threads. % of readers that read the comments vs % of readers that commented. It might be a valuable way to determine when comment threads are inhabited by vocal minorities.

Yeah, it's a little painful to watch. Half of the comments on this article seem to be mostly appeals to emotion and devoid of any reason. I have no idea if this sort of thing goes on here, but it almost feels like brigading.

I have a hard time believing HR really behaved the way they are portrayed in that article. They really claimed that if she elected to stay in her current department she should expect to receive a negative review from the boss she rejected for a sexual relationship? This is just too much. And for someone as savvy and with as large an internet presence as the author, I can't imagine she would accept this resolution. The crowd is quick to crucify Uber here, but we have seen similar claims before that have turned out to be false or exaggerated greatly. It's also suspicious that the claimant tends to only last in jobs for a median of 6 months before moving on and has just released a book. This deserves a full investigation and we will have to wait and see what evidence surfaces.

Thank you. The swiftness with which the hammer has fallen on Uber, is disturbing. Yes, at face value, this looks bad for Uber. But, the claims here are serious enough that we really should be holding our judgement before an investigation, or some other evidence surfaces.

This does not mean I think her claims are false. In fact, I BELIEVE them to be true, but I withhold my judgment and public criticism until I can be sure.

Healthy Skepticism is well... healthy, but I think at this point there is enough evidence out there to confirm the story.

Case in point, a quick look at glassdoor reviews seems to confirm the story. (there's even one that says it's "Not Great for Women" - Sep 2016 although it's not as devastating as this article but the info from that and other reviews seem to support what she's saying)

It's disturbing when it seems people are jumping react before all the facts are there, but it seems the story is verifiably true. If there is still doubt, I think the discussion is better served by bringing up specific items than a whole cloth rejection of the story.

The only thing that review says in reference to women is "Emotionally unintelligent male managers (all the way up to the CEO) make it hard for women to feel heard and valued." This has nothing to do with sexual harassment.

There is also talk of long hours, but it is not clear if the reviewer meant that is a negative specific to women or not.

I don't mean to imply that 1 review on glassdoor is the smoking gun. But a bunch of reviews talking about the same issues (not specific to sexual harassment), and other comments and testimonials not on glassdoor seem to point in the same general direction. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt doesn't mean it needs to be incontrovertible.

Let's not miss the forest for the trees here, this isn't about a single case of sexual harassment (at least to me it isn't). It's about how Uber is operating as a business and culture and from that what are its long term prospects.

How does a glassworks review of 'not great for women' confirm her story? It looks bad, and is LIKELY bad, but come on... Just like rubicon says, no matter how much you'd like to believe, wait for confirmation.

If this was a he said she said case then you would have a point. We should all wait until the facts come out before making a judgement. But, there are so many corroborating accusations from her fellow female peers that makes it very hard to not to believe her story. You do not make a public statement that you have corroborating accusations from your fellow female peers without being absolutely certain because if those claims are discredited then you've instantly lost your credibility.

A rare appeal to reason and thoughtfulness! Well put.

Finally, some reason!

HR could totally act in the way the article describes. They exist to protect the interests of the organization, and to minimize boat-rocking. It would be easy for HR to dismiss her claims in the very same way that you are. Before we start down the path of victim-blaming, lets at least consider the possibility her claims are valid.

Telling a victim that they should expect to be abused further (in the form of a negative review) does not minimize boat rocking or protect the interests of the organization. It leaves them open to lawsuits and antagonizes the victim into further action. And if it was true that they were protecting the manager because he was high-performing, why would you make this explicit. It just makes no sense and reeks of one side of a story.

> It just makes no sense

I see you've never actually dealt with HR departments before.

I worked at a company where the director of IT/Dev hired his wife to the department; they were swingers and engaged in a variety of unethical and harassing behavior. If you got on his wife's bad side he would punish you by taking away bonuses. He was also regularly drunk at work (and later died of liver failure around age 45). They both propositioned women in the office.

Nothing was done. HR papered over any complaints and ensured anyone who did complain was given a bad performance review to ensure if a lawsuit were ever filed they could point to bad performance and claim it was just sour grapes. He was seen as critical to the success of the department and the company had grown quickly. The head of HR was old golfing buddies with the CEO and both were friends with the director in question.

He was only fired once he grabbed one of his manager's breasts while in a huge meeting with a bunch of people. This was not the first time he grabbed women around the office, but there were too many witnesses to punish the victim in this specific case.

I agree that HR should not behave in the ways it's claimed they did. However, based on my perception of Uber's willingness to ignore rules, I find it believable that they could have an HR department that thinks such actions are a good choice; I also wouldn't be surprised if they don't do any of the state mandated harassment training either for all employees or the addition training for managers.

I also believe the claims because they are very specific, egregious, and should be verifiable; and they were related in a simply facts manner: there were no questions of intent or what the other people were thinking, and only a limited amount of heresay. Additionally, it felt more like a "this kind of thing is happening, you should watch out for it" than a call for pitchforks and torches.

Willingness to ignore rules does not lead to these actions. It's nonsensical. There is no way you would tell a complainant that you were protecting a manager because they were high performing. You would be extremely secretive about that. There is no way you would tell a complainant that they should expect a negative review for reporting sexual harassment. You would placate them to make the problem go away.

I don't believe the OP ever intended to 'victim-blame' or discount the possibility of claims.

But rather to wait for the story to unfold before making judgement.

"I have a hard time believing HR really behaved the way they are portrayed in that article."

I don't, and I'm a man who has also worked at big well-known tech companies.

"And for someone as savvy and with as large an internet presence as the author, I can't imagine she would accept this resolution."

Why not? It's really hard to rebel against your employer, given that they literally feed you.

I have a harder time believing that someone would set themselves up to be so royally screwed as she would be if it turned out she was lying. If she were to later claim she "lost" the copies of these emails, or change her story significantly, that would be the time to get skeptical. But people do not generally stake their professional reputations on things lightly.

> I have a hard time believing HR really behaved the way they are portrayed in that article.

It's easily believable. I've seen worse. The author has a lot to lose by putting something like that out there.

> only last in jobs for a median of 6 months

Why would this be suspicious?

It's easy to believe. The thinking HR probably was expressing that Susan couldn't expect positive reviews just because she had a valid harassment complaint. You have to look at HR as CYA for the company. Looking at it any other way is naive.

> The thinking HR probably was expressing that Susan couldn't expect positive reviews just because she had a valid harassment complaint.

That's very different than what the author claimed. But even so, why would HR even go there? It makes no sense.

Don't you have a hard time believing that on a woman's first day in a place with a small minority of women, her direct supervisor, ON COMPANY CHAT, in a highly educated, white-collar highly compensated office job for programmers (she must have earned well into the six digits), said he was in an open relationship and always getting in trouble for looking for a woman to have sex with? That is very hard to believe.

Why aren't you incredulous - isn't that far harder to believe? Oh, right, because she has those screenshots in black and white. So instead you have to be incredulous about what she doesn't.

This is like a black attorney receiving mail saying "You're not welcome in my classroom and if I could, I'd hang you from a noose. Because you're black." signed by a law professor. And the law professor then giving an F - no credit - on every assignment this person handed in. While, incidentally, the law student publishes a book on the area of law the professor teaches in.

So, we get this write-up. And at that point, here you come with your statement "I have a hard time believing that a law professor really gave zero credit for well-written papers that aren't plagiarized. I find it far more likely that either the papers really were unworthy of credit, or perhaps were plagiarized. It just doesn't make sense for a professor to assign no credit otherwise!"

I use this analogy because in this case you are not questioning the racist signed letter, what the author has in black and white. You're shifting and moving the conversation to whatever part has the least evidence, then adding that you find it hard to believe.

How can you honestly do that? Why don't you question the part that has screenshots? The new hire being directly propositioned - on their first day!!! - by their direct manager?

Come on. Withdraw your statement.

Citations needed.

Citations not needed. There are allegations, nothing more.

If this happened to me, I would find the moral import of the matter significant to the point that it would not occur to me to use it to plug my book.

This may well be an endemic issue at this company, and it does seem that these sorts of situations do in fact exist in some places, but so far there is only one person's story's and without proof.

My interpretation was that the "citation needed" was in reference to "we have seen similar claims before that have turned out to be false or exaggerated greatly".

Ah, I misunderstood. Then, to provide a citation which is related without being analogous: the Duke lacrosse case. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_lacrosse_case


Please reach out to your state labour commissioner. Here are some numbers for California [1] and New York [2].

[1] http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DistrictOffices.htm

[2] https://labor.ny.gov/immigrants/language-access.shtm

Headline should read 'Uber Ignored Female Employee's Claims of Sexual Harassment Until She Quit, Wrote About It And Got It Picked Up On High Profile Site'

This is the third post on this topic that's made the front page:

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13683894

[2]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13682022

Why wouldn't there be lots of stories about this on the front page? It is big news about a major player in the exact target market of this site. It is also actionable to the audience here: this story may affect the decisions of many current and potentially future Uber employees.

Not just Uber, if this story stays high profile it could affect Uber's IPO and thus bring major cultural changes to many, many other startups in reaction.

Which would likely be a good thing.

Relax, kuyan didn't provide any opinions with these links. It wasn't necessarily a complaint.

I didn't mean to be un-relaxed, but I see that I may have been re-stating the obvious.

Yep, I thought of it as "find out more here" kind of collection.

More like "Uber Announces it Will Investigate Sexual Harassment Claims by Ex-Employee"

Yes, there hasn't been any verifiable action other than the press release. Then again, it's a weekend.

Interesting that Arianna Huffington is taking a personal hand in this investigation, given that her former Chief of Staff and Managing Editor at HuffPost, Jimmy Soni, was dogged by similar allegations: http://gawker.com/top-huffington-post-editor-was-investigate....

This is a mess. They need a fully independent investigator.

Amazing how bad PR can get a company to start investigating things. They should probably also investigate the total incompetence of their disgusting HR department.

It's very common that startups have such issues. You've got a bunch of younger inexperienced managers and an inexperienced HR department.

What I don't understand is, why don't investors compel such valuable startups to get experienced HR? Do they calculate that the lawsuits will cost less than outsourcing HR or otherwise getting adult supervision? Or are they just blind to it?

I think startup is a pretty generous term for the growth stage that Uber was in at the time

I agree in that I think startup is a vague term. I think what is important is that it's a young company funded by external investment, not organic growth. Why don't investors care about such issues enough to be proactive?

Why does Thuan Pham get a free pass on what happens under his supervision? He joined Uber as CTO two years before Fowler's hiring.

Yeah, Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, said it was the first time the issue had come to his attention, yeah. And we are to believe this. Yeah.

In California your employer is required to keep a personnel file. Get a lawyer. They are the pros. Don't leave it to a blog post, this is way more important.

One of the criteria for being a high performer needs to be: being a decent human being and treating other people with the respect they deserve

i have been a long time uber user, up until their sale in china to didi taxi, and it was a beautiful service here. since then, i have deleted their app just because it was taken over by some useless shell company in beijing.

but what is happening lately with all the accusations about uber, the trump immigration executive order and how uber profited off that, some uber ban in some city, etc. it all seems quite methodical and targeted. do not think it's lyft of all people, that would be too obvious, maybe it's like the secret brotherhood of the knights or something. who aside from lyft/taxis would gain the most from uber collapsing? (not that they're anywhere close to collapsing). i guess there are probably a lot of haters out there since they've been really at the top.

personally i've given up on uber, but mostly because their service essentially is being killed by didi taxi in china.

With Travis at the helm is anyone surprised? Don't expect anything to happen unless it has to because of more bad PR.

Uber having a terrible year in PR.

I tend to believe that more often than not, you reap what you sow.

With that evidence, the CEO should not only fire the creeps involved, but name and shame them. Incredibly damaging, not just for PR reasons, but for missing out on talented people and allowing toxicity.

In case I needed another reason to hate Uber.

The book "Corporate Confidential" is a must read.

I will believe it when I see it. I have no confidence that anything will actually change, and that anyone other than a token fall guy will be fired.

These are allegations by one party against another with zero data either way, why is everyone on the anti-uber bandwagon.

Sooner or later, the truth is going to come out. Fowler knows this. There's no room for ambiguity here: either Uber has broken the law extravagantly, or she's lying. If the latter is true, she will be crucified for it. The defamation suit alone would be monumental.

And again, there's no ambiguity. She says she has extensive records of this behavior. That's not something she can really walk back. In a situation where one person's word is pitted against another's, the most reliable way to buy credibility is precommitment. By writing the article that she wrote, she made a massive precommitment. She will be screwed if Uber takes her to court and she can't back up her claims. Uber, meanwhile, has said "We're looking into it." Precommitment is about cutting off your options. Uber has done the opposite.

So we have one side that just cashed out options for credibility, and one side that wants to wait and see. If you're trying to assess the situation rationally, there's only one correct play here.

There's an obvious test of whether your claim that, if she's caught lying, she'll become a massive pariah: Ellen Pao, whose claims fell apart in a court of law thanks to evidence she was lying. Look at how the publications like the New York Times and people in this thread treated that case. Here's some quotes from the NYT article about her losing that is linked from this one:

"One of Silicon Valley’s most famous venture capital firms prevailed on Friday over a former partner in a closely watched suit claiming gender discrimination, but hardly got away unscathed."

'"This case sends a powerful signal to Silicon Valley in general and the venture capital industry in particular,” Ms. Rhode said. “Defendants who win in court sometimes lose in the world outside it."'

Neither the fact that her claims were found not to be true in a court of law nor the evidence contradicting them mattered as far as the press or public opinion were concerned. Just the fact that she made them in the first place was sufficient justification for condemning the company she accused and their entire industry.

First of all, there's a big difference between merely losing a civil case and having been proved to have lied. It just means the jury did not find sufficient evidence of wrongdoing. There are a lot of possible reasons for that. If you want to make the case that she was actually lying, you need to point out specific evidence for that.

The fact that the firm not only didn't counter-sue, but also offered to settle with her in exchange for dropping her appeal, tells me that the evidence that she lied is not very strong. Everyone agrees that they took a reputation hit over this. If they had clear evidence that she committed perjury, wouldn't they be eager to clear their name exhaustively?

But second of all, I don't see nearly the kind of buy-in in Pao's case as in Fowlers. Pao sued. Fowler wrote an extensive indictment of Uber's company culture. IANAL, but it seems from what I've seen that it's hard to sue someone for defamation over a lawsuit. A scathing blog post is another story. In addition, there's inherent ambiguity in merely losing a lawsuit. Fowler's move is far more dangerous to her reputation.

It would be great to see the messages and hearing the other side. How did "definitely he wanted sex with me" message look like? With modern overreaction culture it can be just smiley at the end of message. I've seen women in tech that accused their male-dominated teams in sexism just because they couldn't keep up with the rest of team and/or guys didn't hang up with women for different reasons.

SJWs made a good job, I don't believe anyone without a) seeing the evidence with my own eyes b) listening to both sides of the conflict.

The truth will only come out if a lawsuit is filed and it goes to trial and it's not settled before a verdict.

Otherwise we'll get her side of the story as written and a statement from Uber that's been rubber stamped by lawyers.

If she's lying, it's pretty hard to imagine a scenario where Uber lets her settle this without recanting.

> she will be crucified for it.

She'll be crucified for saying bad things about a man in tech regardless. As we can see from the recently created accounts revving up the accusations of lying to promote her book.

Eh, I think that's a little too reductive. She's getting berated for pattern-matching to the "feminist" outgroup, which is a favorite bogieman for a lot of men in the industry. And given Uber's previous flirtations with "digging up dirt on hostile journalists", I wouldn't put some malicious extralegal bullshit past them either.

But I do want to distinguish that from the crucifixion she'd receive if she were making it up. There's a difference between people being shitty online, and your professional reputation being destroyed. The former will happen regardless. The latter is less likely if she's telling the truth.

But fair point that even if she's being truthful, she's put herself at a lot of risk.

You know what? You're right. But at the same time I can understand everyone jumping to her side of things. Many of us in HN have worked at start-ups where we've seen almost this exact same behavior. I know I have seen something eerily similar.

Ultimately I get the feeling this is going to be one of those tough situations where if the evidence was still on Uber's computers it could have easily been removed by now. So if it was removed and Uber says there is no proof, do we then side with Uber? Or do we stay on her side? There may not be a good way to proof in favor of either party.

Probably because a good number of people have worked for SF startups and seen this behavior first hand.

That doesn't excuse all the guilty-until-proven-innocent pitchforking going on right now.

You should abandon your throwaway and talk to some of your lady friends in tech about their experiences. See for yourself if their anecdotes build up into something approaching quantitative - and ask them if anything was ever done about their complaints - or if they even felt safe enough to complain to the people they ought to feel safe around.

What's your point? That harassment occurs frequently and is often mishandled? I never disputed that.


So you can't dispute his claims with evidence so you are just going to insist that women would be offended by them. Seems legit.

I'm sorry. What evidence would be sufficient?

It depends on what claim you want to dispute, but insisting that women would be offended by what he said certainly isn't sufficient.

I didn't insist that.

You implied it very strongly, and in the absence of that implication, your comment has essentially no meaning.

I think its quite telling that you find a comment where I suggest actually talking to women to be meaningless unless there's the implication of offense.

Well when you look at what you said to talk to them about, it really is.

Their experiences, anecdotes, complaints and feelings of personal safety are meaningless?

No, but it is irrelevant to what is being discussed.

Earlier you thought I was insisting women would be offended by something, and you’ve since stated that if I wasn’t insisting that, my “argument” was meaningless. What did you think we were discussing?

Did you think that if women were offended, that would have been an argument for pitchforking? Were you saying I hadn't provided enough evidence women were offended? You haven't really said what you think is missing here, or even what you think I was getting at. Could you let me know what you think some relevant points would be? Is there any evidence that would persuade you of whatever it is you think we're arguing about?

I think I've addressed or asked questions about as many of your straightforward (if a little emotional) statements as I can.

Yes, when you said women might be offended by the statement that pitchforking is bad, that was clearly a criticism of the statement that pitchforking is bad. That criticism is nonsense, and you supplied no actual logic or evidence of an issue with that statement. I don't see why this is difficult to understand. Your response to someone advocating against pitchforking was clearly hostile.

Well clearly anyone who suggests taking a reasoned response to an accusation is clearly someone who would assault women.

You thought I was criticizing the content of his post? Incorrect.

"Understood. You should get your lady friends in tech to read the comments you posted on a throwaway. Do you think they'll feel safer around you?"

Are you seriously going to argue this isn't a criticism?

No? Why would I argue that? It is a criticism. Just not of the content.

The only thing about a post that is rational to criticize is the content. What else could you criticize? The name of the person who posted it? The time when it was posted?

The blog post it was posted on? How posting it here would make people feel?

I think this kind of thing is uncalled for when all the commenter just pointed out that we should wait for some kind of evaluation of evidence before pitchforking. The entire justice system in the US is founded on "innocent until proven guilty". In pitchfork-heavy threads like this, pointing that out should not result in an implication that you make women feel unsafe.

You are implying that women should feel unsafe around someone who suggests waiting for a legal resolution to a very serious problem before jumping to conclusions.

Do you think women feel more or less safe around people who, given an egregious example of harassment, instead leap to the defense of the six silicon valley companies they've worked for or to criticise the NYT?

I don't know who the strawman you are attacking is, but it's definitely not me.

>given an egregious example of harassment

I upvoted her story. It's a terrible case and it needs to be investigated ASAP.

>instead leap to the defense of the six silicon valley companies they've worked for or to criticise the NYT

The comment you are referring to is in response to the NYT turning a serious, specific issue into some larger political propaganda piece about women in all of silicon valley. Additionally, the NYT hurt her case by comparing it to one where a jury ultimately decided that the accuser was wrong.

>I upvoted her story. It's a terrible case and it needs to be investigated ASAP.

Maybe, just maybe, you should put this above the fold next time.


pointing out that we're an audience without legal standing, playing with pitchforks, is not harassment or condoning harassment.


as a leftist... I can only feel the left is fucked.

on the other hand, I am arguing in a thread that contains that complete altrightgarbletwat banned below.

on the other other hand, your aggrieved-on-behalf-of-my-lady-friends stance is just so freaking overwrought and gross.

you're attacking a position that no one has advocated for, with the exception of the altrightgarbletwat. go bug him.

and final edit: by the way, the moral imperative I advocate for is to burn these companies to the ground and to scald capitalists with their own failures. it wouldn't matter to me if Uber managed a PR save here because Uber's shitty heart will not change and nothing of value will be lost when it dies.

do you get it? a system will do the bare minimum to exonerate itself and continue perpetuating the SV failures of greed and misplaced tech idealism: there's no story here because it doesn't fucking surprise anyone clued when someone comes out with yet another harassment story in tech and it doesn't fucking mean anything when some token firings take place over the next few weeks.

Uber will still be a piece of shit unsustainable company in a tech world coopted by greedy would-be visionaries, hopefully destined for the scrap heap in the near future.

my lady friends don't need you here. read up on performative allyship and then check a mirror.

You're responding to a post where I suggested a throwaway comment should be discussed with real people, irl. What position do you think I'm defending?

Why would she lie about something like this? If she's lying then her career will be wrecked, and Uber will hit her with a defamation lawsuit that will ruin her life and finances.

It's trendy right now to "listen and believe."

Outrage can score you some serious Internet popularity points, particularly when your claims are about men being sexist pigs. Don't ask for any evidence, just grab the pitchforks!

That being said, it's tempting to just believe everything Fowler wrote and hope for sweet justice. We all love a good story, after all.

Unfortunately, what makes for a gripping story of justice in the face of wrongdoing doesn't always align with reality, and it can be difficult to convince the lynch mobs of that fact.

She's staked her reputation (and, at this point, probably her career as well) on not lying about the harassment. She says she has both documentary evidence and other female Uber employees to back up her claims.

"Guilty until proven innocent" is how our courts work, and rightly so. But, as a layperson, there's nothing wrong in assessing the evidence and saying: "the chance these claims are false is vanishingly small, given all the publicly available information about the author of the blog post, Uber's culture, the heavily-documented problems faced by female developers in SF and elsewhere, and the very very low proportion of these sorts of claims that turn out to be false".

> "Guilty until proven innocent" is how our courts work, and rightly so.


Don't forget Uber's response. They threw the CEO's competence under the bus to buy themselves some slack.

I think you accidentally a word (or you don't understand how courts work in the US).


Nobody here does.

It's a civil case and the standard of evidence is "preponderance of the evidence".

Commenting at 2am has its drawbacks...

You're being disingenuous. Please stop.

This is far from the first time we've had people complaining about Uber's toxic engineering culture. Using stack ranking, managers building fiefdoms and undermining each other's projects... these are hardly secrets.

At this point there is so much smoke that yes: it is entirely appropriate to believe there is a fire.

The only thing unique about this case is it is a woman and her first negative experience was a manager sexually harassing her. The rest of her post perfectly matches Uber's reputation as an engineering organization.

When they keep getting caught doing scummy things over and over again, people stop giving them the benefit of the doubt.

"It's the first time this has come to my attention so I have instructed Liane Hornsey, our new Chief Human Resources Officer, to conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations." Me Kalanick. Ah the damn pattern. Boycott Uber now?


This is a deeply uncivil comment, and if you post like this again we have to ban your account.


I hope you don't "use" one. Sex workers deserve better.


> at least some portion of the HN user base does not abide by the community guidelines.

There is no stated policy for when down votes are appropriate.

There is, however, one about whining about down votes.

    Please resist commenting about being downvoted. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13684627 and marked it off-topic.

It is valid to point out that the allegations are not corroborated. To suggest that the author invented a sexual harassment fantasy to advertise her book is however quite crazy.


I didn't say withholding judgement was crazy, see the first sentence in my comment.

I just don't see your point - she wrote a blog post. On her own website. She didn't say she was writing about the moral philosophy of sexual harassment. She didn't set out to write a feminist manifesto. She just wrote down what happened to her. Issues about morality and stance conflation are being imposed by you, derived from your hypothetical musings on how you would react, and what you would find appropriate. She can write whatever the hell she likes, frankly, thank god she wrote anything at all.

>She just wrote down what happened to her

What she _said_ happened to her. Nobody has corroborated and she has presented no evidence. It may well have happened, and would be rightfully a scandal about deplorable behavior if it did - but there is nothing so far besides just this one person's blog post which she herself says multiple others _can_ corroborate.

'If you are saying things like “We can’t really know what happened” and extra-specially pleading on behalf of the extra-special Woody Allen, then you are saying that his innocence is more presumptive than hers. You are saying that he is on trial, not her: he deserves judicial safeguards in the court of public opinion, but she does not.

The damnably difficult thing about all of this, of course, is that you can’t presume that both are innocent at the same time. One of them must be saying something that is not true. But “he said, she said” doesn’t resolve to “let’s start by assuming she’s lying,” except in a rape culture, and if you are presuming his innocence by presuming her mendacity, you are rape cultured.'


Nobody is assuming she's lying.

However, libel laws are in place for a reason. If all it takes is an accusation of impropriety for people to treat the accused as actually guilty, well, that's not justice.

And it's a hell of a leap from "sexual harassment" to "rape". And to bring any sort of culture into this is laughable. I don't see anybody rushing to the defense of Uber if these allegations are actually true.

Except everything we've ever heard out of Uber makes her story extremely believable.

If Uber weren't run by a bunch of assholes doing their damnedest to act like assholes at every opportunity then maybe we could all stop and be careful to wait for the results of the investigation. There was a six month period where their entire executive team kept causing self-inflicted wounds to the point that investors had to tell them to shut up and stop talking.

You get the benefit of the doubt initially, yes. Uber long ago tossed that benefit in a dumpster, lit the dumpster on fire, then nuked the whole town from orbit.

She was not advertising her book. She used her book as an example to substantiate her claim that her transfer was blocked for bullshit reasons. Seems perfectly appropriate to me.

> and the author advertises her book in her post.

Hint; while it may be surprising to you, books about microservices are not where the big bucks are. Nobody is going to make dramatic libellous false claims merely to advertise a book on microservices; the idea is kind of absurd.

I would say that the value proposition for any technical book is not the sales but is the prestige. I have had a few brief interactions with published authors and the sense I got was that writing was equivalent to a minimum wage job.

You're assuming that that allegations are true.

You can read all of the comments about a story like this one with a caveat of "If the allegations are true...". I don't think it's necessary to make that explicit. It's obvious.


Even if I take your assertion seriously, he should have been warned to stop at the first accusation. Literally all he needed to do at that point was to not try to date within the company, even the most clueless guy figures that out after a formal warning. If not, I question his basic reasoning skills.

This isn't a case where it was the first accusation nor was it where he or other people in management were unaware (the issue was escalated), the behavior was inappropriate.

The problem is the management was told there was an issue, repeatedly, with evidence, by several people, and choose to not act upon it. Doesn't matter if it's sexual harassment or incompetence, employees won't tolerate bad cultures if they can help it.

This is a lot of things, sexual harassment, work culture, accountability, office politics, etc., but some guy being clueless about women isn't one of them.

If you read the original blog post, you'll see your comments have nothing to do with what actually happened.

The problem is that there seems to be a terrible, unbelievably toxic culture pervading nearly every department at Uber.

Also, "I know that sounds sexist" is a fucking terrible caveat.

> The problem is that there seems to be a terrible, unbelievably toxic culture pervading nearly every department at Uber.

I wonder if such things are limited to Uber or more widespread than we believe it to be. I have a fear that these incidents are more common than I believe them to be and that because we have our heads down and focusing on an end-goal, we don't notice that some of our colleagues are being traumatized by people we admire/put in positions of power.

They are definitely not limited to Uber, but I'd also surmise that they're just as prevalent (if not more so) outside of tech/startups in the Bay Area.

> I'd also surmise that they're just as prevalent (if not more so) outside of tech/startups in the Bay Area.

I would agree with you that certain industries and areas would have equivalent if not higher prevalence. Investment banking comes to mind.

From experience, retail banking is worse.

>I think women just are naturally or at least culturally (does the difference matter in this case, really?) more social

This is really sexist.

I think there's a fair point to be made that some gender norms around friendliness in women are often misconstrued by men as flirtatious. Or put another way, women are expected to behave in a more "flirty" way, or they're seen as cold and bitchy. But if they do act more flirty, they're seen as "leading men on".

I think the technical term for this is "Some Grade A Bullshit", but it's been a while since I read a sociology textbook.

None of this really has anything to do with the case at hand though.

Is sexism a blindfold? A noiseless barrier where nothing can pass through?

I would define sexism to be believing facts solely based on a persons gender. This does not mean that if you had evidence that one sex was better at something, and you reached a conclusion based on that, then that would be sexist.

For example, it's quite obvious that men are taller and stronger than women. It's not sexist to say that, as it's based on clear evidence.

I'm unaware of the evidence the original poster has, but I would leave room for doubt that he/she does have some before immediately branding him/her a sexist.

There's something wrong with the way you think if you view an accusation directed towards a statement as an accusation towards the person who said it instead.

Branding someone's speech as sexist is implying they are sexist themselves. Who else would, in neutral context, make sexist statements without being a sexist?

Besides which, if you understood my point I don't see how you could view a statement like "Gender X is better at Y" as being sexist in it of itself. You would need to see the supporting evidence or lack thereof of to decide whether the idea conveyed is sexist.

you throw that accusation around too lightly. why don't you ask what the person meant?

Do you think there are any gender differences re: personality traits?

It's technically sexist, but not really that bad sexist. Likewise the statement "I believe women tend to be more often attracted to men than to women" is sexist, but not very shocking.


I don't think you understand what sexual harassment is then. I hope you take a closer look at this, because this is beyond acceptable workplace behavior.

>Some of the women even had stories about reporting the exact same manager I had reported, and had reported inappropriate interactions with him long before I had even joined the company. It became obvious that both HR and management had been lying about this being "his first offense", and it certainly wasn't his last. Within a few months, he was reported once again for inappropriate behavior, and those who reported him were told it was still his "first offense". The situation was escalated as far up the chain as it could be escalated, and still nothing was done.

How does this contradict what the parent poster said?

I don't know if its possible to contradict a... lack of sympathy or empathy. Its like the comment just fails to recognize how humans... feel... about being approached by their direct superior who controls their performance reviews and work tasks on the first day of work.

If only there was some feedback mechanism to let this socially-clueless person know they'd stepped over the line most people feel is relatively sacrosanct. ohwait


>I see no abuse of power by said manager at the point of expressing an interest.

I don't think you understand the perspective of women then. I don't know if this comment alone will be able to change that, but there are so many dynamics involved that I'm guessing you are unaffected or less affected by, and are therefore failing to take into account when judging what this situation would be like if you were in it. Things like the female-male power imbalance, the manager-employee power imbalance, the fact that this happens orders of magnitude more often to women than to men, etc.

I would urge you to read more accounts of women's experiences with workplace sexual harrassment, and/or to speak with women you know about it with an open mind. Their average experience is so different from yours in this respect that it can be hard to understand why something that seems innocuous to you is absolutely toxic to them.

Hi, Sychophant. First, could you please re-read the original blog post[1] very carefully. I do not feel that you read it carefully the first time.

Second, can you please explain this sentence: "I was then told that I had to make a choice: (i) I could either go and find another team and then never have to interact with this man again, or (ii) I could stay on the team, but I would have to understand that he would most likely give me a poor performance review when review time came around, and there was nothing they could do about that."

-> Please explain, in your own words, why HR said the manager would likely give Fowler a poor performance review?

(Alternatively, I am also open to your replying that upon reflection you have realized that you did not read the post carefully enough, and that your original point was completely wrong and that this is tantamount to the manager saying "Have sex with me or I will fire you." Also even if you don't go that far, for the record, please agree that saying "have sex with me or I will fire you" to a direct report is wrong. If you don't see anything wrong with saying that, either, then we will have to get down to basics.)

Finally, the name you have chosen here (sycophant) means "a person who acts obsequiously towards someone important in order to gain advantage", so please declare that you have no conflict of interest (or declare/disclose your conflict of interest, such as if you are an Uber manager or employee yourself, or have any other relationship with Uber, which you should disclose.)

In any case, do take the time to reply. Thank you.

[1] https://www.susanjfowler.com/blog/2017/2/19/reflecting-on-on...

It's pretty sad that this comment is being flagged into /dev/null. The points are at least thoughtfully constructed and deserve proper responses from those who disagree, not just knee-jerk slamming of the flag button. Conversation is all we have. Let's make use of it.

My response: That comment displays such a blinding lack of empathy that my response only draws attention back to the words of the original post.

Those points are poorly constructed, sociopathic, and worthy of scorn.


It's also quite possible that the commenter is trolling. I personally have a hard time believing that someone legitimately has views like that. Commenter is also not asking questions or expressing any interest in engaging about whether his views are ignorant.

OK, let's have the conversation, tell me how this wasn't blatant sexual harassment?

I don't recall suggesting that it wasn't. I'm just saddened that a thoughtful reply gets bombed because it expresses unpopular opinions. I'd much rather see a rigorous discussion vs. a shout-down.

You'll have to pose this question to the OP.

Is there any physical/electronic evidence?

It is popular in the USA right now to silence rational, evidence based discussions. Now more than ever it is of vital importance that we stick to values of relying on open dialogue, reason, and facts. If these values only apply when they are convenient and comfortable for you then they aren't your values, but instead a rhetorical tool you abuse.

As a community of above-average intelligence and reason, I am disappointed to see hacker news commenters abuse their power to silence requests for evidence. If you approach things objectively you must always seek evidence. Given the libel risks, there must be some evidence. Perhaps it's not getting released at this stage to strengthen her legal position. In this case the evidence shared thus far is character-based. That doesn't obviate the need or prevent the ability to have a rational, logical discussion about evidence.

Please, go ahead and silence this post as well. Show me how badly you deserve your current political situation and fractured nation. If this community behaves this way, I don't have much hope for the world.

Our democracy and the world needs people committed to reason, evidence, and open dialogue. The choice is yours.

Here's the thing: If you had ever taken even a few minutes to sit down with women who work in our industry and asked them if anything like this has ever happened to them you would learn it is extremely common. You would also learn that women rarely get the benefit of the doubt in these situations and are often punished or eventually forced out of the company. Women don't talk about it because jerks immediately start screaming "WHERES THE EVIDENCE?!?!?!?!". As far as anyone can tell she has no interest in pursuing a legal case; in that sense this is just like the NFL national anthem controversy. No matter how blandly and inoffensively someone behaves there will be assholes at the ready to condemn them for speaking out about anything in any form whatsoever. Susan kept her head down, tried to do good work, then left for another job. She has made the absolutely minimum of an issue out of this as it is possible to make.

Try this thought experiment: assume the original story was written by a man and was identical except for the sexual harassment part. The same tales of toxic work culture. The same stories about managers protecting fiefdoms, undermining each other, and withholding information. The same story about being denied a transfer so this person could serve as a "feather in the cap" of the manager denying the transfer. Would you still be out here claiming it is the end of civil society that everyone isn't demanding evidence before rushing to judgement?

Hint: we've had these kinds of stories show up before with male authors and the answer is no, people aren't so demanding. Only people who experience sexual harassment are held to this double-standard.

Nothing about what Susan posted seems far-fetched or out of the ordinary. HR exists to protect the company from you, not to help you or ensure justice is served. Telling people this is someone's first offense is likely to diffuse the situation and ensure no one files any pesky complaints with commissions nor hires a lawyer. Playing games with performance reviews is par for the course. Anyone who complains is viewed as a troublemaker. This happens on a daily basis in most companies in the USA.

Of course I don't believe you (or the rest of your compatriots) posting here are acting in good faith. If she shared screenshots and emails you'd just claim they were faked. How exactly she is supposed to gather evidence (when CA is a two-party state, so recording the conversations secretly would be illegal) is never explained.

You seem very reasonable.

Please try your own thought experiment: would requests for evidence in your scenario get silenced by assumptions and accusations of bad faith and sexism?

These are some of the same tools used by dictators, despots, and criminals to chill rational discourse.

Your thought experiment is lacking a critical component: the hearsay accusation of a criminal act. You've unwittingly created a straw man argument.

This is a risk when you don't engage with the world in a rational evidence-driven format. You mislead even yourself.

Try this thought experiment: Assume I'm a very supportive professional married to a woman who works in technology, intimately familiar with the pressures and difficulties that come with that. You can explore my comment history if you like.

Seriously re-read what you've written and consider it from my perspective. What does it say about you, your prejudices, values, beliefs, and open mind? What is the impact if everyone behaves the same way?

Can you see why I'm concerned that ycombinator contributors behave this way?

Or: view it from the perspective of a misogynist that you seek to shame and silence. Few of them will be converted through bullying. You're trying to stop terrorism by bombing Iraq. Attacking the wrong people for the wrong reasons while sacrificing your values quickly destroys your reputation, highlights your hypocrisy, and creates new opponents.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that your behavior here doesn't match how you see yourself or how you want to be. That you have a love of democracy, freedom, and the pillars that support them. We desperately need people like that, and we have no shortage of ignorant bigots.

> Here's the thing: If you had ever taken even a few minutes to sit down with women who work in our industry and asked them if anything like this has ever happened to them you would learn it is extremely common.

This type of argument is extremely dangerous. Not only isn't it true for many (I've done this), it's conflating claims with evidence.

If one is being honest, it's clear that the vast majority of news outlets that routinely cover activities in the tech industry are ideologically left-leaning and progressive towards ideas like those in feminism. It's regularly claimed that sexism in the tech industry is a major issue as fact, including in the linked article:

> Ms. Fowler’s account is another sign of Silicon Valley’s struggle with women’s issues and diversity in a male-dominated engineering environment.

This is a factual claim, and no evidence is ever given for claims like these from left-leaning media.

Now, given that we have an established media that leans this way, and has a long history of sensationalizing the hell out of anything that they find validates their position, why is it then that stories like these are so infrequent? Why must we suspend disbelief and not require evidence a few times a year when these stories get published and talked about? And further, why then must we conclude that because we get a few sensationalized cases per year that this is a pervasive issue which many women face, as you claim?

Given the context that these same outlets routinely print other stories that overhype exaggerated or outright false claims in this same vein (earnings mismatch, college "rape" statistics, etc), why is this suddenly the issue where second guessing what's printed is not okay? Surely merely believing what anyone tells you uncritically is dangerous.

I'll gladly wait until actual evidence is presented, or a group that is actually informed by the facts of the case (and not overly sensationalized clickbait articles) makes a decision regarding the merits. That's for the judge and any jury to decide, and the rest of us can opine when actual evidence is provided. A blog post truly is insufficient.

Dude, this isn't a court case. It's one woman sharing a story about how sexism in a male-dominated environment affected her career. Anyone can opine on it, especially people who have experienced similar issues firsthand and want to discuss the root cause of it and how to stop it(Is it a few bad apples? Is it endemic to tech/SV culture? Is it a problem equally in all fields dominated by a single sex?). If you don't think there's a pattern there worth discussing, that's your call, but it seems clear that a huge number of us do, and a blog post is plenty sufficient for discussing that.

I'm glad your women friends tell you things are all good and rosey, but the rest of us are going to keep talking about this sort of behavior until it stops happening.

Also, scare quotes around "rape" statistics? Ewww.

Not saying uber is right or wrong but part of the problem is there aren't any sane rules of what is and isn't sexual harassment - there is mostly just vague case law and public opinion so things are treated 'case by case'. I was told by a HR department that if someone overheard you and misconstrued what you said it still could be harassment even if they don't report to the person talking. No one could agree what was and wasn't harassment when people in the meeting posed several real-life scenarios. I tried to basically explain the ridiculousness and lack of clarity of what they were saying but felt the extreme discomfort in the room and stopped.

You basically have the option of abstaining entirely from any comment or remark that could resemble anything sexual to anyone within physical or digital earshot or be at risk to an uncertain and unwritten standard. Treat everyone as formless blobs of raceless genderless biological matter or else. This is a impossible when when jobs become the majority of people's lives and part of their identity. Sex is a crucial part of human identity and denying it's existence generally isn't healthy behavior or even practical.

You want to make it sound like it's vague what sexual harassment really is.

But your boss stating he wants to have sex with you, I think that's quite a clear-cut case.

It's really not though. The problem only exists because our society has an unhealthy attitude about sex. If we all had a perfectly healthy attitude about sex, the mere admission of the fact that someone feels sexually attracted to someone else would be a nonissue. But the world isn't ideal, and there's a whole host of misogyny, fear, taboos, antiquated traditions, and stupid people. So we have a problem.

Your boss stating that he wants to have sex with you is stupid, unethical, and unprofessional. It's not clear that it's sexual harassment, unless he was told to stop yet continued anyway.

> Your boss stating that he wants to have sex with you is stupid, unethical, and unprofessional. It's not clear that it's sexual harassment, unless he was told to stop yet continued anyway.

Your boss by definition is in a position of power over you. If they date you (let alone ask for sex in this manner!), they can be seen as exploiting their power over you, or you being treated differently in return for sex. That just doesn't work. It's always unethical, regardless of consent of the employee (who might also be too afraid to say no).

I agree with you:

> Your boss stating that he wants to have sex with you is stupid, unethical, and unprofessional.

Is this issue really one that needs to be addressed in the context of this topic? It's not like what she described is remotely one of those cases. Just because the line is blurry, doesn't mean that every case is a shade of gray.

The blurry line creates these scenarios because people aren't provided a clear cut standard to adhere to.

No. This scenario has nothing to do with ambiguous definitions. The ambiguity in the definition of sexual harassment does not leave any possibility for what this guy allegedly did. This is a case of someone flagrantly disregarding acceptable standards for workplace behavior, despite having previously gotten in trouble for the same behavior. You can't say "the line is blurry!" when you're five timezones away from the line, and you've been repeatedly told that you're on the wrong side of it.

It really sounds like you're trying to fit this case to an agenda that's important to you, and you're working against your own interests by doing that. Bringing up ambiguous definitions in the context of a clear cut case discredits the idea that ambiguity is a problem. You'd be better off just accepting that this case is blatant, and saving the arguments about ambiguous definitions for a time when they're actually relevant.

It's certainly possible to construe situations where it becomes very hard to tell what's harassment and what isn't. But those are really mostly hypothetical - the issues that you hear people complain about are usually absolutely crystal clear, such as the allegations in this case (there's simply no way how asking a report for sex in this way is not harassment).

"Anything could be harassment" and "nobody could live their normal life by these standards" are straw men and don't reflect reality much. It's neither particularly hard to tell, nor would treating people properly turn work life into a totally grey and amorphous existence.

Can we just avoid sexual conversations at work? That's a pretty simple rule that negates all the complexities of determining what type of sexual discussion is and isn't sexual harassment. I've sometimes heard the argument that such a notion is puritanical and sterile but honestly I am just not at all interested in sexual banter at the workplace and I feel like nothing of value is lost if I don't have to overhear remarks about sexual escapades, desires, or jokes during the work day.

We can (and I, personally, do) but that isn't a practical standard. Healthy humans are sexual ones and especially when you have younger people working 60+ hours with a close group you will have people talking about sex. That should be expected but the current legal standard doesn't allow for that.

> Healthy humans are sexual ones

In the appropriate context, of which the workplace is not one. There are other places where individuals make an effort to curtail sexual discussion (church, the dinner table, around small children, within earshot of their parents), so I think it is well within the capabilities of healthy young professionals to generally keep sex out of the workplace.

> when you have younger people working 60+ hours with a close group you will have people talking about sex.

Well perhaps they shouldn't. Of course, sex or topics of a sexual nature might come up, just as say, the color of your last bowel movement might come up, but I'd argue that it shouldn't be a topic of regular discussion and that a culture that aims to defer such discussions to a venue outside of the workplace is a good idea precisely because it is impossible to manage the variable spectrum of comfort in sexual discourse among individuals, especially among a diverse workforce (and not just with regard to gender, but also age, cultural and religious background, as well as sexual experience, history and maturity).

> That should be expected but the current legal standard doesn't allow for that.

The current legal standards certainly allow for it, the bar for sexual harassment in a legal sense is generally pretty clear (proving what actually transpired is sometimes a different story), but what tends to be less clear is company policy regarding the fine line between what is permissible and what is inappropriate. I think the spectrum of what is considered over the line varies so wildly that the only sensible approach is "just don't bring it up".

And i'm positing that if we want diverse workplaces we need to graduate from "just don't bring it up" as the only sensible approach or we'll continue to have professions that aren't diverse. Which is most of them. Which is kinda sad.

Actually, the dictionary definition of sexual harassment is quite clear cut. If you make unwanted sexual advances towards someone, you're sexually harassing them.

I don't know about you, but most people are quite capable of understanding when an interaction is a) sexual in context and meaning and b) unwanted.

> If you make unwanted sexual advances towards someone, you're sexually harassing them.

That's untrue. It has to pass a bar of being "frequent and severe". (https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm)

With your "clear cut definition", simply asking somebody out on a date that you work with is sexual harassment if he/she doesn't want to go.

Which is ridiculous on the face of it, because if you don't make some sort of advance, you'll not know if it's unwanted or not.

The language "severe" is ambiguous, but asking somebody out once to dinner should not be a fireable offense. Telling somebody what you would like to do to them sexually should be.

"Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision"

Seems pretty clear-cut to me?

"Frequent" and "severe" are definitely not legal terms.

If you ask somebody out to dinner, and they say they're busy, is it ok to ask them out again in a week? Is that frequent?

Everything is context driven, which makes things very difficult to write hard and fast rules about. For instance, it is usually sexual harassment if you link somebody to a page of with pictures of models in lingerie on it. If you work for an online clothing shop, it might be perfectly normal. "Every time anybody rates this item, it throws an exception in the server logs. Is there anything special about it?"

To me there is a very clear difference between asking a fellow coworker out to dinner, and propositioning a subordinate for sex on their first day on the team.

You keep coming up with all kinds of examples, but in real life most people know (or should know) what constitutes harassment and what doesn't.

> but in real life most people know (or should know) what constitutes harassment and what doesn't.

That's a very dangerous statement.

First, in this case, we're obviously not dealing with most people. If you want clear cut rules, you're not going to find it.

Second, these things are culturally dependent. You can go topless on a beach in France and nobody will bat an eye, do so in an asian country and you'll be gawked at, and in any conservative Muslim country you'll be jailed.

Simply saying "You should know" is not a legal justification for monentary sanctions and/or accusations.

>>First, in this case, we're obviously not dealing with most people.

Of course we are. Most people don't go around sexually harassing others. That's why you hear about it when it happens.

>>Second, these things are culturally dependent.

Again not sure how that's relevant. We aren't talking about a foreign employee who was temporarily visiting the company's San Francisco headquarters. If we were, then you could make the argument that such behavior may be acceptable where the employee is from, but it isn't here in the US.

>>Simply saying "You should know" is not a legal justification for monentary sanctions and/or accusations.

Last time I checked, saying "I didn't know that was the law" was not an excuse.

You aren't sure if something may be perceived as sexual harassment? Then don't do it. It's really that simple.

> Most people don't go around sexually harassing others.

A high proportion of programmers are on the autism spectrum compared to the general population. The law should apply to everybody equally, but this sort of thing is extremely hard to pin down. Something appropriate in one situation is not appropriate in another, and it takes discernment.

> If we were, then you could make the argument that such behavior may be acceptable where the employee is from, but it isn't here in the US.

We're talking about the law in general, about how it's especially not clear cut and black and white in this case. Your arguments aren't relating to that point at all.

> You aren't sure if something may be perceived as sexual harassment? Then don't do it.

That is ridiculous. Most people don't know the law backwards and forwards

It's stupid to think that people are responsible for all of the perceptions people have of them, especially people who are on the spectrum, as I have alluded to earlier. Would you just cut all people with social disorders out of any sort of human interaction, because by your logic, they can't do anything?

There is no hard and fast rule, as I have said before. There are standard deviations from the median, and it's hard to draw lines in human behaviour, a nuance that seems to escape many people.

It's not clear cut - that is what i'm saying - ask any employment law lawyer. There is a morass of uncertainty when it comes to this topic. That is partly why this is such a hotly debated issue.

The statute -- at least in my country -- is quite unambiguous [1].

What is difficult is proving that what is alleged to have happened actually transpired (or if cases are not properly investigated).

But this is why we have a justice system. If there is a paper trail, and evidence of repeat activity, as in this case, there is little ambiguity.

[1]: https://employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/types-of-probl...

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