Uber bad behavior

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

                                                            King James Bible, 1Corinthians13:11

Uber, the precocious technology disrupter, is growing up and with it comes the usual pre-pubescent growing pains. But in Uber’s case, the pains appear to be self-inflicted and no amount of hopping around on one leg is loosening the cramps.

The San Francisco-based ride-sharing app has confirmed that at least 20 employees, including some senior executives, have been fired after an independent investigation uncovered hundreds of incidents of sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, bullying, and any number of other cases of crude and borderline criminal behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated in junior high, let alone a professional environment populated by alleged adults.

Here’s the breakdown of 215 complaints of “inappropriate workplace instances” investigated by the law firm Perkins Coie, for those keeping score: 54 discrimination complaints, 47 for sexual harassment, 45 for unprofessional behavior, 33 for bullying, 13 for retaliation, 19 for “other” harassment, three for physical security, and one for wrongful termination. In addition to the 20 employees who were terminated, another 31 are undergoing training to change their behavior. Phew.

All that before a report from a deeper probe into the company’s workplace culture by former Attorney General Eric Holder is released next week. That report had also been scheduled to be publicly unveiled this week but was delayed after a sailing accident over Memorial Day weekend killed CEO Travis Kalanick’s mother and seriously injured his father.

The terminations were revealed Tuesday to Uber’s 12,000 employees in an “all-hands” meeting at the company’s headquarters. But some say those meetings, which are becoming more frequent, are more p.r. than mea culpa.

“Uber has been here many times before, responding to public exposure of bad behavior by holding an all-hands meeting, apologizing and vowing to change, only to quickly return to aggressive business as usual,” Mitch and Freada Kapor, two longtime Uber investors, wrote in an open letter earlier this year. “We are concerned that the company will try to manage its way past this crisis and then go back to business as usual.”

The Kapors’ letter was in response to a blistering critique of the corporate culture by former Uber executive Susan Fowler, who said her complaints of sexual harassment were dismissed by the human resources department as a first-time offense and that the harasser had a bright future with the company.

Kalanick, who once referred to his company as “Boob-er” for its ability to increase his ability to meet women, scrambled to seize the narrative, giving a tearful apology and vowing to do better. He hired former Apple executive Bozoma Saint John as branding executive, instantly making her the highest-ranking black employee as well as a high-profile female, and this week Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei took over full-time as vice president of leadership and strategy.

“It’s grown so quickly in such a short amount of time — and leadership and others have been so focused on growing the business — that this very moment is about changing the image of Uber and crafting what that brand story is,” Saint John said about her hiring. “That hasn’t been done yet.”

Uber’s not the first tech company facing charges of misogyny in its ranks. The industry is wrought with discrimination against women with the frat boy mentality often competing with intellect in the corporate suites.

But no one is shedding any tears for Uber, saying the reckless actions are endemic to a culture that pushes boundaries with little regard for consequences. There’s also a question if corporate executives really get it. Just the day before the Perkins Coie report was released and the firings happened, Liane Hornsey, Uber’s new chief human resources officer, said she conducted “listening tours” and has determined that pay and pride rather than sexism were the biggest problems. Well, 20 fired former employees might disagree.

“This is enormous,” Debra Katz, a lawyer with a Washington-based firm specializing in sexual harassment claims against companies, told the Washington Post. “For corporate allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct to lead to firing 20 people, I know of no comparable corporate action … This is a significant action by Uber to give a strong message to take these actions seriously [and also] seems to suggest that they cannot simply say it’s only a few bad apples here.”

–JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

The Massachusetts Nurses Association is pushing a bill that would increase transparency by requiring hospitals that receive public money and pay their CEOs more than 100 times the lowest-paid worker to pay into a Medicaid reimbursement fund to aid hospitals with low-income patients. But a group representing hospitals says the measure “isn’t pertinent to any kind of health care reform.” (Cape Cod Times)

A Herald editorial pans a legislative push by some liberals in the House to freeze the state income tax at 5.1 percent, saying that amounts to a tax increase on all workers from the same people who say they’re interested in getting the rich to pay their fair share through the so-called millionaire’s tax.

Gov. Charlie Baker rips a legislative effort to scuttle an agreement by which the state Department of Correction notifies federal immigration officials of the impending release of inmates who served time on serious charges who could be subject to deportation. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Holyoke City Council votes 6-5 to erect barriers at several intersections to block panhandlers from disrupting traffic. (MassLive)

A branding campaign launched by Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was paid for by the Fall River Office of Economic Development after Correia agreed to add money to the Community Development Block Grant by the necessary amount, even though such funds are not allowed to pay for marketing. (Herald News)

Provincetown, iconic gay haven. Not so much anymore, writes E.F. Graff. (Vice)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University warns President Trump he will be sued if he refuses to unblock those who were denied access to his Twitter account after they criticized or disagreed with him. The institute says Trump’s Twitter account is a public forum subject to the First Amendment.

Republicans look to muddy up James Comey ahead of his scheduled Senate committee testimony tomorrow. (Boston Globe) Meanwhile, Trump picks former federal prosecutor Christopher Wray to be his new FBI director. (New York Times)

Utah has reduced the legal limit for driving under the influence to .05 blood alcohol content, nearly half of what most states allow, in a move many see as a nod to the abstinate Mormon population and their influence on state politics and policy. (American Spectator)

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire says she is, in fact, related to Pocahontas, the racially-charged nickname Howie Carr applies liberally to Elizabeth Warren because of her claimed Indian ancestry. (Boston Herald)

ELECTIONS

Joe Battenfeld says US Rep. Joe Kennedy could emerge as a unifying leader for the state Democratic Party, helping it rally around an eventual 2018 gubernatorial nominee and articulate a clear vision. (Boston Herald) Setti Warren, one of the three declared Democrats in the race, says he’s not concerned that lots of the focus so far seems to be on President Trump and not the governor the party hopes to unseat. (Boston Herald) New 2018 parlor game: Lots of voters will have to cast ballots for both GOP Gov. Charlie Baker and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren for both to win. Could Marty Walsh be one of them? (Boston Globe)

Eric Trump, the president’s son, says the Democratic Party is imploding. Referring to Democrats, he says: “To me, they’re not even people.” (The Hill)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Lenox officials say investors are swooping in and scooping up homes that they plan to rent through Airbnb. (Berkshire Eagle)

Millennium Partners, which has vowed to meet city diversity hiring goals on its planned construction of a 775-foot tower at Winthrop Square, has never come close to hitting the targets on its previous Boston projects. (Boston Globe)

Share prices for Google’s corporate parent Alphabet Inc. hit $1,000 for the first time, making the company the second most-valuable on the S&P 500, trailing only Apple. (U.S. News & World Report)

EDUCATION

Haverhill High School keeps a furnished apartment on site so special needs students can learn life skills that will allow them to live more independently. (Eagle-Tribune)

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos skirted questions during a congressional hearing about whether she would protect students who are the victims of discrimination because of religion or sexual orientation. (U.S. News & World Report)

Were those offensive memes grounds for rescinding admission offers to Harvard? Students at various campuses and researchers discuss. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Mental health care advocates say Gov. Charlie Baker has not shown public leadership in addressing the big changes needed to deal with years of neglect due to budget cuts throughout the system. (Boston Globe)

Tufts Medical Center and the union representing its 1,200 nurses are in tense contract talks, with a strike possible. (Boston Globe)

The Boston VA scores poorly on a measure of how accurately it handles claims for disability payments related to war-related injuries. (Boston Herald)

Could supervised injection sites for drug addicts cut down on the spiraling number of opioid overdose deaths? (Greater Boston)

Munchies? Ermont, Inc., a medical marijuana dispensary in Quincy, has come up with the latest in edible weed — a pot-laced frozen pizza. (Patriot Ledger)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA has reached a settlement with a Roxbury woman who filed a federal lawsuit alleging she was subject to police brutality from transit officers when she sought to intervene in the rough treatment she says they were giving to a woman at the Dudley Square bus station. (Boston Globe)

Lyft teams up with Cambridge startup nuTonomy to develop driverless cars. (WBUR)

Countdown clocks finally make their way to the Mattapan High Speed Line. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The presidents of Clark University and the College of Holy Cross pledge commitment to the Paris climate accord that President Trump is withdrawing the country from. (Telegram & Gazette)

CASINOS

The Connecticut House approves legislation authorizing the state’s two federally recognized tribes to open a casino in East Windsor, Connecticut, to blunt the impact of the MGM casino going up in Springfield. (Associated Press)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Michelle Carter, the Plainville teen charged with homicide for allegedly goading her boyfriend through texts into committing suicide, was a “needy person” who craved attention and used Conrad Roy in a “sick game of life or death,” prosecutors claimed in opening statements in her jury-waived trial. (Standard-Times)

Rachelle Bond testifies that she did not actually see her former boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter Bella Bond, dispose of the toddler’s body as she had previously told police. (Boston Globe)

Carfentanil, a powerful synthetic opioid, was detected in state lab tests of recent drug seizures. (Eagle-Tribune)

The state Board of Bar Overseers has disbarred a longtime, well-known Hopkinton lawyer who misused funds in a client escrow account and never repaid the money. (MetroWest Daily News)

MEDIA

Former Boston Globe TV reporter Jack Thomas reviews Terry Ann Knopf’s new book, The Golden Age of Boston Television. (WBUR)