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Uber HR Chief Steps Down Amid Claims She Ignored Complaints About Racism

Liane Hornsey

Liane Hornsey joined Uber 18 months ago amid the company’s sexism and harassment scandals. (Photo by Hemant Mishra/Mint)

Uber’s head of human resources abruptly resigned Tuesday following an investigation into her handling of employee complaints of racial discrimination at the ride-sharing company.

Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey, 59, announced her resignation in an e-mail to staffers after serving just 18 months with the firm, which has faced claims of fostering a toxic work culture rife with gender discrimination and sexual harassment, according to Reuters.

The investigation stemmed from allegations from an anonymous group of Uber employees that Hornsey and the company’s HR department ignored complaints of racist behavior and failed to investigate them. The whistleblowers also accused Hornsey of using discriminatory rhetoric and making condescending remarks about former chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John and the company’s global head of diversity and inclusion, Bernard Coleman. Both are African-American.

In a separate e-mail obtained by Reuters, Hornsey acknowledged her departure “comes a little out of the blue” for her fellow team members, but said it was something she’d been thinking about for some time now. She didn’t give a reason for her resignation, however.

According to USA Today, Uber chief legal officer Tony West hired a Los Angeles-based law firm to investigate the racism complaints after the aggrieved employees threatened to go public about Hornsey. Investigators from the law firm, Gibson Dunn told employees some their claims were substantiated while others were not.

The complaints against Hornsey, who previously worked for Google, come nearly a year after Uber was rocked by countless complaints of gender discrimination and harassment, prompting an investigation by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Like the worker complaints, however, Uber ignored a board-approved suggestion from Holder to have its chief diversity officer report directly to the CEO.

Still, the company insists it thoroughly investigated the latest complaints.

“We’re confident that the investigation was conducted in an unbiased, thorough and credible manner, and that the conclusions of the investigation were addressed appropriately,” it said in a statement.

Uber spokesperson MoMo Zhou noted that Hornsey would stay on board temporarily as the company transitions one of her deputies, HR vice president Pranesh Anthapur, into her role. It will then begin its search for a new head of HR.

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