When it comes to company crisis mode, it’s best not to stay there because of a variety of problems. Best to deal with a crisis and leave it far behind, but that’s hard to do if the company faces one problem after another. That seems to be where Uber is these days. The latest … three female engineers at Uber Technologies Inc. have filed a discrimination suit against the company for gender and race bias.
The three ladies, Ana Medina, Roxana del Toro Lopez, and Ingrid Avendano described their experience as Latinas and that Uber’s compensation and other issues showed discrimination against them both as women and as part of an ethnic group. Because of these practices, the women say they’ve missed out on promotions, earnings, stock options, bonuses, and other benefits. Two of the ladies no longer work at the company, but Medina is still there.
The suit was filed in the US Superior Court in San Francisco mirroring another suit against Uber from a female engineer where she spoke about the incessant environment of sexual harassment. Uber has declined to comment on either of the lawsuits.
Language from the current lawsuit claims that the company ranking system for employees is “not based on valid and reliable performance measures.” Claiming they favor whites, Asians, and men. It continues by stating: “In this system, female employees and employees of color are systematically undervalued compared to their male and white or Asian American peers.”
According to the lawyer representing the ladies, Jahan Sagafi of Outten & Golden, “These three engineers are seeking to ensure that Uber pays women and people of color equally for the hard work they’ve done – and will continue to do – to help make Uber successful.” The same law firm has helped in other gender discrimination suits against companies such as Microsoft Corp and Goldman Sachs.
Though the suit was just filed, it would seem that Uber has been making steps forward in similar situations with a 2.5 percent annual raise for those in jobs that were paid below the median salary. The three women must feel that is not sufficient.
There are two big problems that we see for Uber over this situation. First, having had several crisis situations in the news and social media during the last year, another lawsuit and social media storm for something as incendiary as gender and racial discrimination doesn’t look good. The second problem … the “no comment” issue will not help their case. The longer they stay silent, not even mentioning either their side of the argument, a mea culpa, or offering a way to fix the current issue … they are hanging the company out to dry without any need from others to make it worse. Staying silent is not the way to go when it comes to crisis communications.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.