Who said there’s no such thing as bad publicity?

It is reported that the investigation by Uber – which employs 12,000 globally – has uncovered 215 complaints about harassment, bullying and issues about poor company culture. It was initiated after one of its former engineers, Susan Fowler, wrote a highly critical blog indicating that Uber had ignored her complaints of sexual harassment. The blog was subsequently widely shared, prompting widespread debate about the alleged mistreatment of women in Silicon Valley.

Uber has appointed Eric Holder, who served as attorney general under former US president Barack Obama, to investigate the company’s broader workplace culture and present his findings and recommendations to Uber’s board.

While the outcome of Holder’s investigation are not expected to be made public until next week, it serves as a stark reminder that companies should not only have suitable written anti-harassment and bullying policies in place, but that they should also deal with all such complaints within a reasonable time, treat them seriously and confidentially, and reassure staff that someone complaining will be protected from victimisation.

There are, of course, implied duties on employers to provide a safe and suitable working environment, and to provide redress in relation to any grievances. In addition to this, an employer may be liable under the Equality Act 2010 if it fails to protect its employees and other workers from harassment in the course of their employment. This includes harassment by members of staff and, in some cases, by third parties such as customers, service providers and visitors.

For further information about employers’ responsibilities when dealing with harassment and grievances at work, please contact Duncan Snook or Kerrie Hunt in Thrings’ Employment and Immigration team.

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