Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick could be required to leave the company temporarily as the ride-hailing service struggles to recover from months of controversies, according to multiple reports.
Uber’s board is considering the management move at a meeting Sunday, as well as a raft of other policy changes linked to a workplace culture report being prepared by a high-powered law firm and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Under the report’s recommendations, Emil Michael, Uber’s senior vice president of business, could also be forced out, according to The New York Times. The board consists of seven voting members, including Kalanick himself.
Stepping down as CEO, even temporarily, would be a major setback for Kalanick, who founded the company in 2009 and has been running it ever since – despite mounting criticism over the hard-charging office environment he helped create.
By taking on entrenched taxi companies and regulators around the world, Uber has developed a win-at-any-cost reputation that opponents say has contributed to a toxic workplace. Leaked company memos and allegations of harassment have helped paint the portrait of a company that at times operates less like the Fortune 500 than a college fraternity.
Uber didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last week, Uber fired 20 employees amid an investigation by outside lawyers into hundreds of claims of alleged misconduct. Some employees have received written warnings, and others will receive workplace training.
The sweeping personnel changes came days before Holder and his firm, Covington and Burling, were expected to release the results of their investigation. The report, which is not yet public, will mark a crucial turning point for Uber, one of the world’s fastest-growing technology companies.
“When a board asks for this kind of outside expertise and companies have some legal and other problems, then I think it can be critical,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. “It can be a juncture where there’s a turnaround, or it could be that the company continues to have these difficulties. But continuing difficulties are going to make it hard for the company to prosper.”
The hotly anticipated report may also have ramifications for Silicon Valley as a whole. Tech companies of all sizes have grappled with gender and minority representation for years, showing little progress in their efforts to hire more women, blacks and Latinos. Those they have hired have increasingly spoken out about discriminatory corporate cultures.
One such employee, Susan Fowler, wrote an incendiary blog post in February on workplace conditions at Uber. Already under fire for the way it handled a taxi strike in New York linked to the Trump administration’s travel ban, Uber began seeing more of its users jump to rival platforms as a rising call to “#deleteUber” circulated on social media.