Uber employees to hear results of potentially damaging attorneys report

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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (Photo: Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media: Wiki Commons)

Employees of ride sharing giant, Uber, are scheduled to hear details about the recommendations of a critical report by outside attorneys, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday.

That report, which purportedly reveals a corporate culture of sexual harassment, bullying and unprofessional behavior, may also mean the company founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, will be taking a leave of absence.

Since January, Uber has been besieged with at least 20 major events and incidents, which have undermined its image and credibility with consumers and regulators alike. These include losses of hundreds of thousands of customers, allegations of ignoring public safety laws, willful deceit of public officials, misappropriation of competitors' research, loss of key executives, as well as claims that its corporate culture embraces sexual harassment, bullying and unprofessional behavior.

It has already fire 20 employees and is looking at 215 other complaints as part of another company probe. It's also facing a federal criminal investigation into some of its business practices. 

CEO Kalanick's brashness and temperament was caught on an Uber driver's video camera earlier this year when the driver was berated by the CEO for complaining about lowered wages.

Uber also garnered a great amount of publicity when it announced that it was taking over the old Sears Building in downtown Oakland and was going to put 3,000 of its employees to work in the East Bay. As the development is being renovated, the company later changed their minds, dropping the commitment by 90 percent to around 300 employees because of better digs in San Francisco as part of a new Mission Bay office space development.

Now the often-times pushy, fast moving company may have to improve its attitude.

"The Board represents the shareholders," said Mitchell Marks, a professor of leadership at San Francisco State University. Marks also said, because Uber is privately owned, the Board of Directors is friendly to the CEO.

"The big question is gonna be: Are they gonna be just a slap on the wrist, or is it gonna be something significant?"

Odds are CEO Travis Kalanick will not be ousted; simply given a requested leave of absence. At the end of May, Kalanick suffered the devastating loss of his mother in a Central Valley, California boating accident on Pine Flat Lake in Fresno County. The boat hit a rock and sank. His father was injured in that accident.

Nonetheless, a lot of damage has been done. "What matters most, I think, to a member of a Board of Directors is the company's reputation. Because, ultimately, if the reputation hurts, consumers are going to react," said Professor Marks.

Consumer Psychologist Kit Yarrow says Uber seems to have lost the heart and soul of what drove its initial success: low prices and high customer service.

"Uber stepped in because taxis were letting consumers down and I think, in a way, they're just providing for Lyft and other new startups to step in," said Professor Yarrow. Given the hundreds of billions of dollars at stake, Uber is giving innovators a huge opportunity and competitor Lyft a huge windfall. 

"Also, anybody who's got an idea of how to make transportation easy, whether it's self-driving or public transportation or whatever's coming down the pike, I think the more unhappy people are with the current situation, the more open they are to innovation," said Yarrow.

When we get the internal investigation report, we'll bring it to you.