- Two female former engineers at Uber have filed a complaint against the company with California regulators. Their complaint includes allegations of unfair pay and treatment. The complaint appears to be a way for employees to sidestep a mandatory arbitration clause and set themselves up to file a class-action suit.
Two former Uber engineers have filed complaints with California regulators alleging unfair pay and other workplace discrimination, the news website Axios reports.
Among other allegations, the women claim their male colleagues ranked their attractiveness, according to The Information.
The two women were part of Uber’s reliability engineering team. That’s the same team Susan Fowler worked for. Fowler is the former Uber engineer whose blog post from earlier this year about the sexual harassment and sexist culture she says she experienced at the company prompted an investigation that ultimately led to the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick.
Perhaps the most significant thing about the complaint is that it’s based on a law that seems to allow employees to sidestep mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts, Axios reports. It has become standard practice for companies to include such clauses in their employees’ contracts.
Unlike lawsuits, arbitration is typically handled in private. Arbitration disputes are frequently presided over by arbitrators who are hired by the companies involved – and tend to favor those companies.
In addition to mandatory arbitration, companies also frequently include a clause in their contracts that requires employees to waive their right to participate in class-action lawsuits. Together the clauses can thwart employees’ ability to band together to address widespread discrimination or other systemic complaints.
The US Supreme Court is considering the legality of mandatory arbitration clauses for employees and the clauses that bar employees from seeking class-action suits. In August, Fowler filed a brief in support of barring employers from requiring such clauses.
In the meantime, it looks as if the two former engineers at Uber are challenging those clauses in a different way. If successful, their effort could have far-reaching effects for other Silicon Valley workers.
Uber could not be immediately reached for comment. But the company told Axios that it removed the arbitration clause from its employee contracts in August. The company also told Axios it had been reviewing and adjusting employee salaries.