Uber’s compliance woes continue unabated. The company, which recently hired a new chief compliance officer, has now lost its head of human resources, Liane Hornsey, on paper “to pursue other opportunities,” but allegedly for a lack of sensitivity on the issue of racial discrimination. Reports indicate that Hornsey’s departure occured when an anonymous employee accused the executive via the company’s whistleblower account, of dismissing internal allegations of racial discrimination.
Hornsey had been a divisive figure within the company. Hired by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler before the departure of former CEO Travis Kalanick (who left after being accused of ignoring sexual harassment claims at the company), she initially defended Kalanick but later changed her tune after he departed. She refused to reach out to Fowler, saying instead she wanted to concentrate on the employees still at the company, rather than the disgruntled ones who left because of rampant harassment.
The fact that her departure was not accomplished until an internal whistleblower threatened to go public forcing the general counsel to retain outside counsel to perform an investigation may say several things about the current state of the company. First, it doesn't speak well of the company’s new speak-up culture when it takes a threat of going public to bring about an investigation of a senior corporate official. There is probably not much doubt that the incident or incidents were known within the organization at some level.
Second, to allege the head of HR is not sensitive to, or worse, dismisses allegations of racial discrimination suggests a broken HR department. If HR is not going to be sensitive to allegations of racial discrimination, which department will be? While it is at least promising that the whistleblower report worked at some level, one must wonder how long the conduct had been tolerated. Trust is one of the most important aspects of any corporate culture. If employees cannot trust HR around the issue of racial discrimination, there may not be much in the way of trust going forward.