Mar 1, 2017

Why Google didn't tell Uber about alleged employee misconduct

Jeff Chiu / AP

Uber on Monday parted ways with Amit Singhal, who had joined the ride-hailing company just weeks earlier as senior vice president of engineering. The reason: He had been accused of sexual harassment at his prior employer, Google.

Singhal allegedly did not tell Uber the real reason he left Google in early 2016, and the company claims it didn't know until being approached by tech site Recode. So assuming this is true, that leaves us with Google—what is the search giant's role here?

Not a good look: Turns out, the answer is not much. Although Google's parent company, Alphabet, reportedly was prepared to fire Singhal after concluding that the harassment claims were "credible," it ultimately let him resign. Moreover, it gave him a dignified departure by letting him post a farewell letter that painted the picture of a well-respected executive retiring after 15 long years of service.

Standard procedure: Keeping such situations under wraps is not only common practice for employers, but also in Alphabet's best legal interest. "It's really up to the employee to disclose," Mike Delikat, who chairs the employment law practice at Orrick, told Axios. Companies usually prefer to simply confirm a former employee's time at the company when called for a job reference, and non-disclosure agreements are typically part of separation agreements, he said.

The biggest rationale is to avoid defamation lawsuits. For example, if Google had disclosed that Singhal was accused of harassment and that had cost him the Uber job, Singhal possibly could have sued for defamation (he maintains the claims are untrue). Google would then have to have proved that the accusations were true and it was making factual statements—a big headache most companies want to avoid.

Where does that leave us? Unfortunately, prospective employers often don't have formal means of learning why job candidates really left their former company—even if they were accused of sexual harassment or other misdeeds. Particularly if the job candidate lies or shades the truth, as Uber accuses Singhal of doing.

And even more unfortunate is that this creates a system that very likely puts employees, especially women, at risk. And if you think Alphabet could be held liable for not warning Uber of the situation, think again—it's under no obligation to disclose civil matters regardless of potential repercussions, according to Delikat.

Go deeper

Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know so far

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Milwaukee Molson Coors brewery complex on Wednesday, including the shooter, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at an evening press conference with local police.

What's happening: Police said "there is no active threat" just before 6 pm ET, but noted the scene remains active. Police chief Alfonso Morales told reporters that officers have "more than 20 buildings we have to secure" at the complex and they do not currently have all employees accounted for, as more than 1,000 were at the complex during the shooting.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 22 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Live updates: CDC confirms possible community spread of coronavirus

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

U.S. clinicians have found the novel coronavirus in a person who did not recently return from a foreign country nor have contact with a confirmed case, the CDC said Tuesday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 81,000 others. By Wednesday morning, South Korea had the most cases outside China, with 1,261 infections. Europe's biggest outbreak is in Italy, where 374 cases have been confirmed.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 38 mins ago - Health

Trump assigns Pence to lead U.S. coronavirus response


President Trump announced at a press briefing Wednesday evening that he'll be putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of leading the administration's response to the coronavirus.

The big picture: In the wake of a market sell-off and warnings from health officials that there's a real threat of the coronavirus spreading in the U.S., Trump sought to reassure the nation and Wall Street that the U.S. is "ready" for whatever comes next.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy