Uber Exec's Departure May Signal a New Corporate Standard of Accountability

July 11, 2018

By Jacqueline Corba

Uber's Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey resigned late Tuesday after an investigation into the way she handled discrimination allegations at the ride-hailing giant.

Reuters reported Monday that anonymous whistleblowers at Uber had accused Hornsey of systematically dismissing internal complaints of racial discrimination. In an email to Uber employees, Hornsey did not give a reason for her departure. Her exit, she said, “comes a little out of the blue for some of you, but I have been thinking about this for a while.”

Hornsey's abrupt departure suggests that Uber feels the need to demonstrate to shareholders, the public, and future employees that it's a "responsible" company that doesn't "harbor racist views," said Quartz Senior Reporter Oliver Staley.

"We are at a time now where everyone is much more sensitive to these issues than in the past, and allegations are taken seriously," he told Cheddar Wednesday. "Remarks that might have been brushed off or dismissed with an apologyーpeople are now being held to account."

Coincidentally, Hornsey resigned only a day before the founder and namesake of Papa John's pizza, John Schnatter, apologized for using a racial slur during a conference call in May. Shares of the company tumbled nearly 5 percent on Wednesday. And just a month ago, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings fired the streaming service's PR chief after learning he used the N-word during a meeting.

"I think broadly companies are paying a lot more attention to this, and investors are paying a lot more attention to these issues," said Staley. "Employees of these companies want to know they are being heard and are working in a safe place. Customer-facing companies like Uber and Papa John's want to assure the vast army of potential customers for their products and services that they are responsible companies."

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