How to Handle Workplace Harassment (Prompted by Uber)

Are you a rising leader on campus, or in your community? Need inspiration for overcoming challenges, inside and outside of the office? Join us for Speak Out: Ladies in Leadership on March 22 6:30-8:30pm, where you’ll hear #LadyBosses from companies like R/GA, DraftKings Inc., and more speak about finding their voice in the workplace, tips that lead them to success, and how they worked their way to the top. Learn more here: findspark.com/event/speak-out-ladies-leadership


Uber has taken center stage recently after allegations of rampant systemic sexism was raised by former Uber Engineer Susan Fowler in her February 19th blog. In summary, she details specific incidents of solicitation by her manager, and retaliation. Along with hostility from both managers and Human Resources, Susan Fowler also highlights the ever-decreasing number of women representation overall at the company. While her story certainly has thrusted Uber back in damage control mode (it’s been a rough start to the year – #DeleteUber) this exposé has also created a platform for other women in tech to share their own experiences of harassment.

Unfortunately, these experiences are not unique to Susan Fowler and further highlights the critical importance of companies investing in the constant development of their culture. Diversity, inclusion, and equity are not just trendy buzzwords, but an avenue to reinforce positive cultural growth and behaviors.

After a year at Uber, Susan Fowler has since moved on. Another valuable talent and contributor that is senselessly taken for granted and lost. Her decision to leave was the right one and it is imperative for everyone to fully comprehend that at no point is harassment (of any kind) to be tolerated, dismissed, or excused. Everyone has the right to feel secure and safe in the workplace.

To be clear, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) specifically defines workplace sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature, which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person’s job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. It can happen to both women and men.

If you feel you are being harassed, it is important to keep a few things in mind to protect yourself.

Don’t pretend it didn’t happen or ignore it.

Don’t wait to address incident. Take immediate action so there are no future questions about the validity of your experience. Also, the details will be fresh in your mind.

While this may be difficult, name the behavior and be specific.

Take charge and hold the harasser accountable by clearly stating their actions and your discomfort. Demanding that it stop. Privacy or silence supports harassers. While visibility undermines them.

Follow your company procedures.

Some organizations have specific departments or people who address these types of complaints specifically. Every company is different and there are many role functions in HR. Finding who the appropriate contact is and what to do will make things easier. While HR in Susan Fowler’s case was less than helpful, they are still your first line of defense.

Document everything (bcc: your personal email on exchanges, print emails, take screen shots, etc.).

Create your own file of information outside of the office and off their computer system. Make note of the date, time, and any witnesses as well. Be as detailed as possible.

While you may be reeling from the experience of being harassed, do not make any threats, raise your voice, or hurl insults.

It may be hard to bottle up those reactions but you don’t want to give any fodder to discredit you.

Report the incident to HR via the proper channels via email first.

This is an official record. Include all the details that you had saved. Afterwhich, set up an appointment to meet with your HR representative in person for a one-on-one discussion.

Maintain copies of all your work records (ex. performance reviews, attendance, vacation,etc.)

Again, not on your work computer or at your desk.

File a charge directly with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

You have a minimum of 180 days to do so.

If your harasser is a same level colleague or peer, be sure bring the situation to the attention of your manager.

It’s important they are aware of what is happening within their team and they also have accountability in addressing the harassment issue.

Find support.

Going through this experience can be scary, isolating, and confusing. Meet with friends and other colleagues for encouragement and emotional support. Be sure to take care of yourself.

The hope and expectation with taking these steps, is to restore balance through definitive actions from the company where you can resume your work in a safe environment. Know your rights and pursue them.

Have any other suggestions for handling workplace harassment? Share in the comments!


Are you a rising leader on campus, or in your community? Need inspiration for overcoming challenges, inside and outside of the office? Join us for Speak Out: Ladies in Leadership on March 22 6:30-8:30pm, where you’ll hear #LadyBosses from companies like R/GA, DraftKings Inc., and more speak about finding their voice in the workplace, tips that lead them to success, and how they worked their way to the top. Learn more here: findspark.com/event/speak-out-ladies-leadership

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *