Uber’s Embattled CEO Travis Kalanick Is Taking Indeterminate Leave

June 13, 2017/NBC News

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told employees on Tuesday he will take an undetermined leave of absence from the company, following the release of a highly anticipated report on Uber’s workplace culture.

Kalanick said it’s part of turning the page on what has been most tumultuous period in the company’s eight-year history as it has faced allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct, departing executives and Kalanick’s own realization that he needs leadership guidance. It also comes just a short time after his mother died in a boating accident and his father was seriously injured.

“For Uber 2.0 to succeed there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team. But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve,” Kalanick wrote in the email to employees.

“During this interim period, the leadership team, my directs, will be running the company. I will be available as needed for the most strategic decisions, but I will be empowering them to be bold and decisive in order to move the company forward swiftly,” he said.

The report, the result of a months-long investigation by former attorney general Eric Holder, made a number of recommendations to Uber’s board during a six-hour meeting on Sunday. Those recommendations were unanimously approved by the board, including the call to “review and reallocate” some of Kalanick’s responsibilities to other senior managers. So when Kalanick returns, it’s likely he’ll have a diminished role.

Also on the agenda: Completing the search for a chief operating officer who can act as a “partner” to the CEO, helping to steer the company in the right direction.

Two investigations were commissioned in February after Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, published a blog post where she alleged that she was propositioned for sex on her first day on the job, was repeatedly blocked from advancement, and found Uber’s human resources department unwilling to take action on sexual harassment claims she and other female employees filed.

A report from law firm Perkins Coie resulted in 20 people being fired as of June 6th. Two employees were to be given additional training, and five more were issued final warnings.

Holder’s report focused on the company’s culture and structure, making recommendations at a macro level. Uber posted the full list of those recommendations on its website, saying that implementation would “improve our culture, promote fairness and accountability, and establish processes and systems to ensure the mistakes of the past will not be repeated.”

Many of the recommendations also focused on holding managers accountable to ensure that any employee complaint goes through the proper chain of command and is thoroughly investigated.

Those measures include performance reviews and compensation to hold senior leaders accountable. The Holder report recommends managers and anyone who interviews job candidates also undergo training.

The report also recommends Uber implement “a robust and effective complaint process” that includes several avenues for raising an issue. The company should also “invest in appropriate human resources tools, including complaint tracking software.”

Uber is also expected to double down on its diversity efforts, including resume reviews, better targeting of diverse talent pools, supporting employee diversity efforts, and rewarding managers who “are achieving success with diversifying their organization.”

The Holder report also focused on work-life balance and ways Uber can attract and retain top talent. Several of the suggestions mentioned include scheduling catered employee dinners earlier in the evening and allowing employees to have flexible work schedules, allowing for some remote work.

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