Uber’s HR Chief Hits the Road

When you are sufficiently high up in the corporate structure you get to say you “resigned,” even when it sure seems like you got fired.

And so it goes for Uber’s Chief People Officer, Liane Hornsey. Ms. Hornsey stepped down in the wake of anonymous complaints that she was systematically ignoring internal complaints of racial discrimination. Ms. Hornsey was also accused of making derrogatory statements about two black Uber executives.

That is … uh … not a good look for the head of Human Resources.

Uber says it investigated the complaints and that, “the conclusions of the investigation were addressed appropriately.” But Uber CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, went out of his way to praise Ms. Hornsey on her way out the door as a “valuable member of my leadership team.”

Even if Uber sugar-coated Ms. Hornsey’s exit, it is nice to see that there are consequences for people who ignore and perpetuate discrimination in the workplace.

Every company under the sun says the right things about diversity and protecting employees from discrimination. But actions speak louder than words and all the pleasant sounding policies in the world are meaningless unless a company takes active measures to change a toxic culture. Employers must prevent discrimination from happening in the first place and hold folks responsible when discrimination rears its ugly head.

Uber has been trying to dig itself out of a hole it created under the helm of previous CEO, Travis Kalanick. It was not until a brave engineer named Susan Fowler spoke out against the company that its horrible corporate culture came to light. After Ms. Fowler resigned in the face of gender discrimination, harassment, and threats of retaliation, she wrote a blog about the experience: Reflecting on One Very, Very Strange Year at Uber. Ms. Hornsey’s tenure as Head of HR began just weeks before this blog came out.

The fallout from that article was remarkable, leading to, among other things, a set of corrective recommendations from former-Attorney General, Eric Holder. In March of 2018, Uber settled a class action discrimination lawsuit for $10 million dollars.