By Ila Ananya
The story about Uber’s latest unbelievable misconduct (yes, one more), has our head spinning.
An investigation by Recode has found that Eric Alexander, Uber’s president of business in Asia, obtained (and nobody knows how), the confidential medical records of a woman who was raped in Delhi in 2014, by a driver working for the taxi service. The driver, who was waiting for trial for four other criminal charges, was found to have been in jail in 2011 (also for rape), and was sentenced to life imprisonment following this.
Alexander, who was in India when the case came to light (in 2014), took back the medical records secretly to the United States, where he showed them to Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, and Emil Michael, the company’s senior vice president of business, all of whom “had trouble believing the incident was entirely true.” Then, he kept them for a year — what isn’t clear from the reporting so far is whether he had been directed to bring back the records or decided to do this on his own. A day after this was reported, the rape survivor filed a lawsuit at a California federal court, suing Uber for wrongfully obtaining her medical records, invasion of privacy, and defamation. All three men were named.
So while we don’t know how Alexander managed to pull this off, we do know the infuriating reasons Uber thought it was perfectly fair to do this. Recode goes on to report that all three men suspected that Ola, who is Uber’s competitor in India, was behind the rape “to sabotage the company”. Following the rape case, Uber hadn’t been allowed to function in Delhi until June 2015. But it’s terrible enough for people not to believe a rape survivor — and this happens many, many times — but it’s another thing entirely for men in positions of power to go out of their way to try and contradict them for their own interests.
On Tuesday, 6th June, Uber had fired 20 of its employees for reasons ranging from sexual harassment (remember former Uber engineer Susan Fowler’s piece on sexual harassment where Uber did nothing?) to unprofessional behavior. 100 others are still being looked into or have been warned. Alexander wasn’t one of the 20.
But of course, it’s unsurprising that Alexander wasn’t among those who were fired then — he was only fired once Recode and other journalists began to ask Uber questions. Both Kalanick and Michael, are still happily there, and with this, Uber has just proved that it’s run by people who don’t really care about how women are treated.