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Perkins Coie’s lawyer on Uber firings: ‘We were very dogged’ in investigating misbehavior and it’s still not over

The law firm was hired to look at individual incidents, while Covington & Burling is prepping a larger report about the troubled culture at the car-hailing giant.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick will speak to employees next week.
Wang K'aichicn / Getty

If you want to know the numbers at Uber so far after an investigation into individual incidents of problematic behavior at the car-hailing company, according to its law firm Perkins Coie, here they are:

  • 215 total incident reports, including sexual harassment, bullying, bias and retaliation.
  • 20 terminations so far.
  • 31 employees in training or counseling.
  • 7 written warnings.
  • 100 cases with no action taken.
  • 57 cases still open.

“We were very dogged about the investigation,” said Bobbie Wilson of Perkins Coie, who did not break out the categories of corporate misbehavior. “We were a very neutral fact-finder and let chips fall where they may.”

But those chips are still falling, she added, noting that the investigation continues to root out bad behavior at Uber. It has become the poster child for that in tech since explosive revelations about pervasive sexism, sexual harassment and generally awful management were published in a blog post by former engineer Susan Fowler.

That means there are likely to be more firings, as well as disciplinary actions, at the company.

Fowler’s direct manager had already been fired, as well as many others, before the news of today’s latest spate of firing revelations and Perkins Coie involvement, which was reported yesterday by Recode. A separate and larger investigation by Covington & Burling about Uber’s broken culture is also being completed and will be presented next week — likely Tuesday — to employees.

Perkins Coie was hired right after the Fowler blog post to look into her numerous claims of egregious behavior and mismanagement, along with any other claims that surfaced after that. They were either reported to independent board member Arianna Huffington, to HR managers or via a hotline that Uber set up, said Wilson.

Wilson, who led the investigations, said the team of outside lawyers also looked at 600,000 internal documents. “We were given unfettered access to current and former employees and any documentation,” she said.

The process included interviews with those who complained and those who were accused, as well as any relevant witnesses. After that, said Wilson, “we made recommendations to the company and they abided by them.” Among the 20 fired were senior execs, sources said, although Wilson did not disclose specific names.

“Sometimes an allegation was not sustained or was resolved between the parties,” said Wilson, who noted that the goal was to help employees feel heard. “One of the reasons you bring in an outside investigator, no question, is that you want people to have faith in the process and, frankly, they are often more comfortable about being frank with us.”

Which begs the question of why Uber did not have an adequate system to do that in the first place. At an all-hands meeting today, HR head Liane Hornsey told employees that she was focused on just that. That has included the hiring of well-known management consultant Frances Frei as head of leadership and strategy, which Recode also reported yesterday.

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