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Uber’s Class Action Settlement Can’t Fix Its Killer Self-Driving Car Woes

Mar 28, 2018 / Media Coverage / Observer — John Bonazzo

Uber is in damage control mode yet again.

The company has agreed to settle a discrimination lawsuit for $10 million. Female software engineers Ingrid Avendano, Ana Medina and Roxana Del Toro Lopez filed the suit last year on behalf of 420 female and minority employees who claimed they had been underpaid.

The trio alleged that Uber’s compensation and promotion structure favored men and white or Asian employees. They were reportedly inspired to file the lawsuit by fellow engineer Susan Fowler’s blockbuster blog post about sexism, sexual harassment and illegal workplace retaliation at Uber.

As part of the settlement, Uber will review its compensation system and regularly report diversity statistics. Company executives will also work to grow the pipeline and increase representation for women and people of color.

“This is a very strong settlement that provides real value to class members for the discrimination and harassment they suffered, while ensuring that Uber reforms its employment practices to prevent future discrimination and harassment,” Jahan Sagafi, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers will decide whether to approve the settlement in May.

Uber has struggled with diversity in the past. In response to the Fowler missive, the company published a report which showed that founder and CEO Travis Kalanick didn’t think diversity was “a useful metric for the company.” As such, 64 percent of employees were men and 80 percent were white or Asian.

But once Kalanick resigned, new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi instituted many changes that former Attorney General Eric Holder recommended after an independent investigation of Uber.

For example, the company recently hired its first chief diversity officer, and last year it closed the gender pay gap among employees.

This settlement seems like another positive diversity development, and Uber advocates framed it as such.

“Resolving the workplace issues at Uber is one of the top items on Dara’s to-do list and a prerequisite for a successful IPO next year, so this is not surprising at all,” venture capitalist and Uber lobbyist Bradley Tusk told Observer.

Even so, the timing of the settlement announcement is suspect.

Uber has been in the hot seat for over a week since one of the company’s autonomous vehicles struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona. This is the first fatality associated with a driverless car.

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