At the beginning of this year, the news of Uber hiring Google veterans Amit Singhal and Kevin Thompson made headlines in the business world. Amit Singhal had served as the head engineer for the single most important product at Google for 15 years and retired in February 2016. Kevin Thompson had been with Google for 12 years and officially resigned in November 2016.
Amit Singhal joined Uber as the Senior Vice President of Engineering, and Kevin Thompson would report to Singhal as Vice President of Marketplace Engineering.
Less than two months since Singhal’s joining, Uber has asked him to leave for not disclosing true reasons to the ridesharing company behind leaving the job at Google. Reportedly, Singhal had left his job a year earlier after some top executives at Google informed him of an allegation of sexual harassment from an employee that was found credible after an internal investigation. He was asked to resign by Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO on 27 February.
The executives in Uber found out the truth after a San Francisco-based technology news website Recode informed Uber the chain of events between Singhal and Google.
Uber did an extensive background check of Singhal and ascertained that he did not uncover any hint of reasons of his departure from Google.
He has denied the allegations, but he acknowledged the dispute with Google. He also stated that “Harassment is unacceptable in any way. I want everyone to know that I do not condone and have not committed such behaviour. The decision to leave Google was my own, and in my 20-year career, I’ve never been accused of anything like this before.”
The revelations were dicey for Uber as the company has been under scrutiny due to a blog post by a former female engineer who alleged many incidents of sexual harassment and sexism. She claimed in her post that she was sexually harassed during her time for the company and the Human Resource Department of Uber ignored her complaints.
Uber CEO had claimed that he was unaware of the allegations and released a statement:
“I have just read Susan Fowler’s blog. 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. We seek to make Uber a just workplace, and there can be no place for this kind of behaviour at Uber — and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.”
Having Amit Singhal at the head of an organisation amidst sexual harassment issues especially when he did not reveal the actual reason behind his departure from Google was considered untenable.
It is also being said that Google was prepared to fire Singhal over the harassment case, but it did not have to do so after he resigned. The female employee who filed the formal complaint against him did not work for him directly but worked closely with the search team. The Search Giant had declined to comment on the circumstances that led to Singhal’s departure.
A place where we spend most of our time should be safe physically, emotionally, and mentally. It is important to have proper channels and mechanisms to address harassment and abuse at the workplace. And this should be for both men and women.