On February 19th, a former Uber employee alleged on her personal blog that she had been sexually harassed while working at the ride-sharing company. The former tech employee stated that when she reported the situation to HR and upper management, they didn’t do anything to handle the offense, noting that even though it was clearly sexual harassment, “it was this man’s first offense” and since he was a “high performer” in the company’s eyes they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was “probably just an innocent mistake on his part.”
“There’s a phenomenon that happens in several industries, namely tech and financial services, where there’s a buffer around the men who are considered ‘high contributors,’” stated Lieff Cabraser employment lawyer Kelly M. Dermody to the Los Angeles Times, who has represented hundreds of female tech employees in gender discrimination cases. “They get to have a different set of standards, and their business success translates into them being above the law of the companies.”
Because of this toxic and hostile work environment, it is reported in a 2008 study by the Center for Talent Innovation that around 50% of women will leave their workplace at some point in their career, especially since it is so common for HR departments to take the side of “rock star” employees, even those accused of wrongdoing.
“There’s this confusion between innovation and disruption and basic human decency and inclusions,” explained Dermody. “People tend to associate disruption with obnoxious, exclusive, fraternity-style culture.”
The Times noted that the “kind of behavior described in the former Uber employee’s blog post is pervasive in tech, according to employment attorneys, workplace management experts, and women in the sector who in recent days have spoken out on Twitter.”
According to a 2015 survey conducted by the Elephant in the Valley, 66% of female works have felt excluded from key networking opportunities due to their gender, with 59% feeling like they do not have the same job opportunities as their male counterparts. Meanwhile, 60% of female employees have reported unwanted sexual harassment in the workplace from a colleague, and 90% have witnessed sexist behavior at company off-sites or industry conferences.
Upholding Employee Rights
Lieff Cabraser has a strong tradition of fighting for employee rights across America. Our employment law class action cases challenge (a) discrimination based on employees’ race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability; (b) wage violations, including failure to pay overtime, break time, or vacation time; and (c) misuse of employees’ retirement benefits. We also represent employees who “blow the whistle” on wrongdoing by their employers as well as in other cases alleging violations of the law.
About Kelly M. Dermody
The Chair of Lieff Cabraser’s employment practice group and Managing Partner of Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office, Ms. Dermody supervises many of the most significant and challenging employment lawsuits in our nation today, including cases challenging gender and race discrimination by top Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Fortune 100 firms; wage suppression claims against technology, healthcare, and academic institutions; overtime and lost pay lawsuits for low-wage workers, I/T professionals, and foreign nationals working for American corporations; and ERISA claims that she has tried on behalf of employees and retirees for pension plan abuses.