Uber hires former Attorney General Eric Holder to probe sexual harassment claims

Holder will help to conduct the company's internal investigation.

February 21, 2017, 5:02 AM

— -- Uber said on Monday that it is tapping former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to help conduct an investigation into sexual harassment claims made by a former employee.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced the move in a letter sent around to company employees which was seen by ABC News.

The announcement came a day after Kalanick vowed to immediately investigate the allegations contained in a long blog post written Sunday by Susan Fowler, who said that she faced sexual harassment while working as a site reliability engineer at the ride-hailing technology company from November 2015 to December 2016, and that her complaints to management had gone unheeded.

In his note to employees, Kalanick said he hired Eric Holder, Attorney General under President Barack Obama, and Tammy Albarran -- who are both partners at the Washington D.C.-based law firm Covington & Burling -- to "conduct an independent review" of Fowler's claims.

"I believe in creating a workplace where a deep sense of justice underpins everything we do," Kalanick said in the memo. "What is driving me through all this is a determination that we take what’s happened as an opportunity to heal wounds of the past and set a new standard for justice in the workplace."

The company plans to hold an "all hands" meeting on Tuesday to "discuss what’s happened and next steps," Kalanick's note said.

Fowler, who currently works for the online payments provider Stripe, wrote in her Sunday blog post that a manager of hers when she worked at Uber had sexually harassed her over online chats. She wrote that after she took screenshots of the conversation and sent them on to HR, no action was taken.

“Upper management told me that he ‘was a high performer’ (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part," Fowler wrote.

Kalanick on Sunday called the descriptions in Fowler's post "abhorrent," saying that the actions described have no place at Uber.

"I have just read Susan Fowler's blog," he said in the Sunday statement. "What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in."

"It's the first time this has come to my attention so I have instructed Liane Hornsey our new Chief Human Resources Officer to conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations," he added. "We seek to make Uber a just workplace for everyone and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber -- and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired."

Kalanick also posted his reactions to Twitter on Sunday, embedding a link to Fowler’s blog post.

Uber board member and Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington also promised a “full investigation” on Sunday and asked people to email her directly about the allegations.

According to Monday's memo, Huffington, along with the company's human resources chief, will attend the "all hands" meeting on Tuesday and will conduct "group and one-on-one listening sessions" to get feedback from employees.

ABC News could not independently verify the details of Fowler’s story.

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