Former software engineer accuses Uber of “degrading conduct” toward women in new lawsuit

[Updated: more details and a copy of the complaint added.]

A former Uber software engineer filed a lawsuit against the company today in the Superior Court of California, accusing it of retaliating against her for after she reported sexual harassment and discrimination.

The complaint by Ingrid Avendaño (embedded below), who worked at Uber from 2014 to 2017, alleges that Uber’s workplace “was permeated with degrading, marginalizing, discriminatory and sexually harassing conduct toward women.” Avendaño’s account and her claim that “this culture was perpetuated and condoned by numerous managers, including high level company leaders” is similar to the description of Uber’s internal culture presented by Susan Fowler, also a former Uber engineer, in her pivotal February 2017 blog post. Fowler’s account led to an internal investigation, multiple firings and, along with other company scandals, contributed to the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick.

Avendaño’s complaint (“Ingrid Avendaño v. Uber Technologies, Inc.,” Case No. CGC-18-566677 in the Superior Court of California, San Francisco County) claims that when she tried to report misconduct, she faced “blatant retaliation, including denial of promotions and raises, unwarranted negative performance reviews and placement on an oppressively demanding on-call schedule that had detrimental effects on her health. She was also threatened with termination.”

Examples of the harassment Avendaño claims she was subjected to include a male senior software engineer who touched her on her upper thigh during an Uber retreat in 2015 and continued to make inappropriate sexual advances toward her on multiple occasions; male employees discussing the bodies of female employees and who they wanted to “fuck,” conversations Uber managers were allegedly aware of; and sexually explicit content shared through the company’s instant messaging system.

The complaint also accuses Uber of a discriminatory work environment in which female and non-white software engineers received less compensation.

Avendaño says she brought up these issues with the company, but she claims “virtually no attention” was paid, even after she informed senior managers, including CTO Thuan Pham, that Uber’s “toxic” culture had made several employees suicidal. She eventually resigned from Uber in June 2017 because its “failure to take effective remedial measures threatened Avendaño’s already compromised emotional and physical health,” the lawsuit says.

Avendaño is represented by Outten & Golden, a law firm that specializes in employee rights. Last October, Avendaño and two other Latina software engineers were the named plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Uber for allegedly discriminating against women and people of color. But Avendaño later opted out of the collective action and, according to Outten & Golden, did not participate when Uber agreed to a settlement in March 2018. The lawsuit filed by Avendaño today is separate from that settlement.

TechCrunch has contacted Uber for comment.

Ingrid Avendaño v. Uber Technologies, Inc. by catherineshu on Scribd