The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has spent much of the past year investigating Uber for alleged gender inequality, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
The federal probe began in August and is exploring alleged unfair pay and other gender-based discrimination at Uber, said the person, who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
The investigation was spawned by a complaint from an employee about gender hiring practices and pay, according to the Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report on the probe. Investigators are interviewing Uber employees, reviewing the company’s hiring practices and “seeking documents from Uber officials,” the paper reported.
Citing confidentiality rules, EEOC spokeswoman Kimberly Smith-Brown said the agency is prohibited from confirming or denying the existence of investigations. The spokeswoman added that information only becomes public when the agency files a lawsuit.
Uber operates in 65 countries, employs more than 18,000 people and has more than 3 million active drivers. More than 75 million people use the service, according to Uber.
“We are continually improving as a company and have proactively made a lot of changes in the last 18 months, including implementing a new salary and equity structure based on the market, overhauling our performance review process, publishing Diversity & Inclusion reports, and rolling out diversity and leadership trainings to thousands of employees globally,” the company said in a statement.
Last fall, three female software engineers accused Uber of underpaying women and minorities and then creating a performance evaluation system that perpetuated that systematic disadvantage, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“This practice disadvantages women, who are generally paid 18 percent less than men in the same occupation in the marketplace,” the lawsuit alleged, according to the paper. “It also disadvantages people of colour, who are generally paid significantly less than whites in the same occupation in the marketplace.”
Since his arrival in September, Khosrowshahi has apologized to local leaders around the world while managing a round of troubling headlines involving hacking, driver distrust, as well as racial and gender inequality. The company was also forced to suspend its autonomous-vehicle program in March after one of its vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona.
In May, Uber released a commercial featuring Khosrowshahi titled “Moving Forward,” in which the CEO says he’s committed to “being open” and “taking responsibility. “
Uber claims the company has made significant changes internally. Uber hired a chief diversity officer, and Khosrowshahi has made numerous public pledges for “inclusion” and “teamwork. “
The company has also forced thousands of employees to undergo diversity training, and it has invested more money in employee pay and other forms of compensation.
But on Friday, the New York Times reported that Uber is still struggling to address questions about its workplace culture. The Times reported that Uber Chief Operating Officer Barney Harford had been accused of making a series of racially insensitive remarks about women and minorities, making the executive the target of several formal complaints at the company.