Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to take leave of absence

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to take leave of absence
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Travis Kalanick will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from his post as CEO of Uber, he told employees in an email Tuesday.

"For the last eight years my life has always been about Uber," Kalanick wrote in the email, which was sent to reporters by a spokeswoman.

"Recent events have brought home for me that people are more important than work, and that I need to take some time off of the day-to-day to grieve my mother, whom I buried on Friday, to reflect, to work on myself, and to focus on building out a world-class leadership team.

Kalanick's decision to step down comes as the company undergoes massive changes and amid reports that Uber’s board was considering suspending the embattled CEO.

The company is struggling to deal with allegations of widespread sexual harassment one of a number of controversies and missteps that have dogged the company in recent months. The turmoil has led to the departures of several top executives. At the moment, Uber has no chief operating officer, chief business officer, chief financial officer, chief marketing officer or senior vice president of engineering.

On Tuesday, Uber released a list of recommendations from former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Eric Holder: Calls to abolish ICE are 'a gift to Republicans' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump denigrates NATO allies, floats 4 percent solution MORE and Tammy Albarrán, an attorney, who were called in to investigate the workplace culture after the harassment allegations became public.

The board voted unanimously on Sunday to adopt all of the recommendations in Holder and Albarrán’s report to improve the workplace environment.

"Implementing these recommendations will improve our culture, promote fairness and accountability, and establish processes and systems to ensure the mistakes of the past will not be repeated," said Uber's chief HR officer, Liane Hornsey. "While change does not happen overnight, we’re committed to rebuilding trust with our employees, riders and drivers.”

The report recommends improvements to human resources and making it easier for victims of sexual harassment to file complaints.

Uber’s human resources practices came under scrutiny after a former employee, Susan Fowler, wrote a blog post detailing pervasive sexual harassment at Uber that she said went ignored even after she alerted supervisors.

The company hired Holder to conduct the independent investigation after Fowler’s post.

Holder and Albarrán’s months-long investigation included over 200 interviews with current and former Uber employees, including those with knowledge of Fowler’s allegations, other employees who filed workplace complaints, representatives from Uber’s diversity groups and current and former members of the senior executive team. 

The recommendations highlighted thirteen areas for reform at the company including changes in senior leadership, better board oversight and improving diversity and inclusion. Holder and Albarrán called for ramping up leadership training for top employees and using senior peer reviews to force Uber’s leaders to be more accountable.

Their report also recommended reforming the company's official fourteen core values, including “Let Builders Build, Always Be Hustlin’, Meritocracy and Toe-Stepping and Principled Confrontation,” which Holder and Albarrán wrote had been used to “justify poor behavior.” They also recommended “strictly-prohibiting” the use of alcohol and controlled substances during work hours and work related events.
Uber has been taking steps before the report, including firing 20 employees, some of whom had been involved in cases of alleged sexual harassment.  

But critics say the company is not doing enough.

In a tweet after the report was released on Tuesday, Fowler called Uber's moves "all optics," and said that she had received "nothing but aggressive hostility" from the company.
Kalanick's decision also comes as the company is in the midst of a lawsuit with Alphabet subsidiary Waymo. The company alleges that Anthony Levandowski, the former head of Uber’s autonomous car development unit, Advanced Technologies Groups (ATG), stole around 14,000 documents at Waymo when he worked there and took them to his job at Uber.

Uber dismissed Levandowski last month, saying that he failed to comply with their demands in an investigation.

This story was updated at 2:33 p.m.