Uber’s president of business in Asia, Eric Alexander, was fired on Tuesday after news reporters began bombarding him and the company about his obtaining the medical records of a woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India. Critics of Uber say that this is just one example of the company’s dysfunction.
The case of the the Uber driver raping an Indian woman who dozed off during a ride to her home in Delhi broke out in 2014 when the woman publicly reported the rape. Uber was criticized and the safety of its services came into question when an investigation showed that the man accused of the rape had been in jail for months before over suspicion of a different rape case.
In response, Uber issued more safety features including a panic button that riders could press in case of emergency. The driver was convicted of rape and the company settled the lawsuit the Indian woman filed.
Uber was banned from Delhi which hurt the company financially. They had planned to dominate the ride-sharing business in India. With a population of 1.3 billion, the expansion was supposed to rake in a lot of money for the company. Uber had also just gotten $1.4 billion in financing and was hoping to get more. The Delhi ban and the media presence speculating on the safety of Uber put the prospect of acquiring more funds and expanding into question.
Mr. Alexander believed that the rape charge was a part of a plan by Uber’s leading competitor in Asia, Ola. This led to Mr. Alexander pursuing the woman’s medical file which he believed would be at odds with her account of rape. Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, and Emil Michael, senior vice president of business, had read and discussed the Indian woman’s medical records with Mr. Alexander but did not disclose this information to investigators.
The three men were reportedly very close. Mr. Alexander and Mr. Michael had worked together for 15 years. The two had worked on the start-up Tellme Networks together before they worked at Uber. The three men were reported to Uber’s human resources department for attending a South Korean escort bar together.
In the past three months, there have been several claims of misconduct in Uber offices all around the world including cases of sexual harassment and discrimination. This has led to the firing of over 20 Uber employees and the probation of many others while they are placed in training programs meant to address issues of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Mr. Alexander was not fired after his actions became public knowledge. He was fired after news reporters began questioning him and Uber and giving the company bad publicity.
Next week, former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. will release the results of an investigation into misconduct within the company.
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