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.
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.
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.
"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.
(YMMV in England)
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.
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.
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.
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 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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
Does the NYT not have a labour or in UK terms an "industrial" correspondent who would be more knowledgeable
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.)
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.
However, I do agree with you that my suggestions are editorial in nature, yes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
edit: Hah, judging by the downvotes, it's not! Hehe, this is the first time I'm super-happy to be downvoted. :-)
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.
Everyone experiences the world differently and it's important to take the time to understand how different or similar their experiences are.
> 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.
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.
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.
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?
"I've read your comments"
Yeah, ok buddy
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.
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".
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.
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.
You don't have to go through someone's comment history to remember what they post.
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?
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.
So you prefer preaching to the choir to trying to change someone's mind?
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.
Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it hasn't happened. It means you haven't paid attention.
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.
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.
> 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.
Let me guess; you don't have an answer, just your snide, pithy response.
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.
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.
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?
There is no journalism in Silicon Valley. Everything is PR. As Doerr said "No conflict, no interest."
How is that somehow worse than Gawker hiring people to do that to Uber?
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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?
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?
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.
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 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.
In this case I'm completely bewildered as to why HR handled this particular situation so clumsily.
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 Edward had to do it, we do too.
Yes, in theory. But most HRs "protect the org" in the most short sighted way possible
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, they just don't care about employees
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.
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.
So you can imagine how many multiples of that it is when you're trying to rock the boat on harassment.
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.
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."
What is the better way then, beside leaving the company despite doing your job very well?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Are you based outside the US? Unions aren't particularly prevalent in the US, at least not in professional fields.
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.
There's no legal minimum but it's more difficult to form a class with a handful of people.
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.
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.
This case sounds like either completely inexperienced and untrained HRBPs OR they're being overinfluenced/overrun by management. Possibly both.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Contact your state's labour commissioner. If you received stock or stock options, contact your state securities commissioner. Otherwise, suing is tried and true.
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, fall-woman or not. Also, why did spez want Victoria gone? He made Ellen Pao fire her too, right?
Note, I'm not affiliated with Pao, I just thought her treatment by the reddit community was extremely disappointing.
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.
PS : putting this here for those who may be misinformed
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.
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.
Also about finance/payroll and others.
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.
If they were actually trying to help the company, they would have taken action to reduce its liability. Instead, they played politics.
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.
If they ask you to sign something it is usually not in your interest to do what they ask.
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.
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?
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?
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
>>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.
"Show me evidence" isn't a view
>Enjoy the state of your country; people like you created it.
I quite like Denmark these days.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
That's a hell of a claim since this is a "typical corporate America" type of problem.
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.
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.
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).
It's just a few hundred bucks. Is Uber that short of cash? It's ridiculous.
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.
I take it at face value, Oblivious Employees/Managers thought that not paying extra for women's jackets was equality.
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.
What a bad image UBER is getting for toxic "high performers".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
But rather to wait for the story to unfold before making judgement.
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.
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?
That's very different than what the author claimed. But even so, why would HR even go there? It makes no sense.
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.
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.
Which would likely be a good thing.
This is a mess. They need a fully independent investigator.
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?
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
Otherwise we'll get her side of the story as written and a statement from Uber that's been rubber stamped by lawyers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Are you seriously going to argue this isn't a criticism?
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.
>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.
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.
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.
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.
"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".
It's a civil case and the standard of evidence is "preponderance of the evidence".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Also, "I know that sounds sexist" is a fucking terrible caveat.
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.
I would agree with you that certain industries and areas would have equivalent if not higher prevalence. Investment banking comes to mind.
This is really sexist.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Those points are poorly constructed, sociopathic, and worthy of scorn.
You'll have to pose this question to the OP.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But your boss stating he wants to have sex with you, I think that's quite a clear-cut case.
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).
> Your boss stating that he wants to have sex with you is stupid, unethical, and unprofessional.
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.
"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.
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".
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.
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.
Seems pretty clear-cut to me?
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.