Uber exec steps down after sexual harassment claim surfaces

Amit Singhal failed to disclose that he left Google after a sexual harassment allegation. He denies the allegation.

Jeff Chiu/AP/File
Amit Singhal, senior vice president and software engineer at Google Inc., speaks at Google I/O 2013 in San Francisco.

Uber’s top engineer, Amit Singhal, has resigned after admitting that he failed to disclose an allegation of sexual harassment that emerged during his previous employment at Google. 

Mr. Singhal was asked to resign on Monday morning by Uber's chief executive officer, Travis Kalanick, according to Recode. He denies the allegation – deemed “credible” by an internal investigation at Google – as well as the notion that he left the company because of it. 

“Harassment is unacceptable in any setting. I certainly want everyone to know that I do not condone and have not committed such behavior,” he wrote the Associated Press in an emailed statement. “In my 20-year career, I’ve never been accused of anything like this before and the decision to leave Google was my own.” 

The announcement comes during a low point for Uber, which is about to undertake perhaps its most serious campaign to shed a reputation for misogyny following a blog post by former engineer Susan Fowler that described ingrained sexism throughout the company.  

As The Christian Science Monitor reported last week, the company has responded to Ms. Fowler’s allegations by hiring former attorney general Eric Holder to head an investigative panel on sexism in its workplace, as well as promising to follow its public-company tech peers in producing reports with data on in-house gender diversity.

But Uber has done plenty to earn its current reputation, as the Monitor's Schuyler Velasco noted back in 2015, with its early failures to protect female passengers and drivers standing alongside charges of sexism in its corporate ranks – and even less subtle displays of insensitivity: 

Last year, Mr. Kalanick drew fire for calling his company “Boob-er” in a GQ profile, referencing what a boon Uber’s success has been for his sex life. In October, the company apologized for a “hot chick” promotion from one of its offices in France that paired passengers with attractive female drivers, complete with the tagline, “Who said women don’t know how to drive?”

Incidents like those, combined with continued safety problems even after an announced revamp of its policies, have helped paint Uber as a company that either doesn’t get it or doesn’t really care.  

Singhal’s departure from Google came after 15 years atop the search division – a key one for the company's finances. At the time, he said he planned to focus on philanthropy.  

“As I entered the fifteenth year of working at Google, I've been asking myself the question, ‘What would you want to do for the next 15?’ The answer has overwhelmingly been: Give back to others,” he wrote in a goodbye letter then, according to Recode.  

But in January, just over a year after leaving Google, he announced that he would join Uber to work on the self-driving car program with Kalanick. 

An Uber spokeswoman told the AP that Kalanick requested Singhal’s resignation after Recode informed the company of the previous allegation. She added that Singhal’s failure to disclose the allegation was the issue, not Uber’s hiring process. 

Recode reports, citing anonymous sources, that the Google employee who filed the complaint against Singhal worked closely with him on the search team, but did not want to go public with the charges.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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