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Former employee sues Uber for sexual harassment

The Uber ride sharing app is seen on an Android device. Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Following it's policy change around sexual harassment claims, Uber is facing its first test: a lawsuit from a female former engineer filed on Monday in San Francisco Superior Court, alleging she was harassed by male colleagues with little response from the company's human resources department.

Why it matters: Uber made the bold (but cautious) move last week of exempting employees, drivers, and riders from its arbitration agreements for individual sexual harassment and assault claims.

Note: Ingrid Avendaño, who filed the lawsuit, was part of the group of female engineers that filed a labor complaint last summer alleging gender discrimination and harassment at Uber. The class action was settled in March for $10 million, which Avendaño has opted out of in order to pursue this lawsuit, a spokesperson confirmed.

Avendaño's claims include:

  • A male coworker made comments to other employees that she had gotten her job because "she had slept with someone at the company."
  • Another male coworker touched her upper thigh while intoxicated during a company trip and made other sexual advances towards her including telling her that he wants to "take her home."
  • Male coworkers made repeated comments about her appearance and body.
  • Many of her complaints were ignored and the company retaliated against her by passing her over for promotions for throwing senior officials “under the bus.”

From Uber:

Uber is moving in a new direction. Last week, we proactively announced changes to our arbitration policies. And in the past year we have implemented a new salary and equity structure based on the market, overhauled our performance review process, published Diversity & Inclusion reports, and created and delivered diversity and leadership trainings to thousands of employees globally.

The story has been updated with more details from the lawsuit.