In a dramatic move, global ride-hailing giant Uber has let go of senior Indian-origin executive Amit Singhal, barely a month after he joined the firm, for concealing allegations of sexual harassment against him at his previous company, Google.
According to Recode, which first reported the story, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick asked Singhal to resign after the company’s executives received information from Recode regarding the prior allegations.
Uber’s decisive move comes as the company is already facing a sexual harassment controversy within its ranks. Earlier in February, Susan Fowler, a former engineer in Uber wrote a blog post accusing managers and HR persons at the company of failing to take action over her complaints of sexual harassment, and threatening to victimise her instead. Her allegations are being investigated by a team that includes former US Attorney General Eric Holder.
Recode cited anonymous sources to report that the person who filed the complaint against Singhal at Google was not working directly under him, but was closely associated with the search team that Singhal had headed. Singhal had reportedly denied the allegations against him to Google HR head Laszlo Bock and to CEO Sundar Pichai in 2015.
However, Google’s internal investigation into the allegations against Singhal had found them to be “credible”, reported the New York Times. While Google was ready to fire Singhal, he resigned on his own in February 2016, dispatching a farewell letter in which he made the decision sound like a plan to focus on philanthropy.
“As I entered the fifteenth year of working at Google, I've been asking myself the question, "what would you want to do for the next fifteen?" The answer has overwhelmingly been: give back to others. It has always been a priority for me to give back to people who are less fortunate, and make time for my family amidst competing work constraints - but on both fronts, I simply want to give and do more,” Singhal wrote in the letter.
Recode reported that Singhal continues to deny allegations against him. “Harassment is unacceptable in any setting. I certainly want everyone to know that I do not condone and have not committed such behavior. In my 20-year career, I’ve never been accused of anything like this before and the decision to leave Google was my own,” Recode quoted Singhal as writing.
Recode also reported that Uber claimed that it had found no hint of the allegations of sexual harassment against Singhal despite conducting extensive background checks. According to the report, Singhal’s departure from Google occurred without the news of the sexual harassment allegations spreading, as the woman had chosen not to bring up the charges publicly.
Amit Singhal’s journey to Silicon Valley began with a Bachelor’s degree at IIT-Roorkee in 1989, followed by a Master’s degree from University of Minnesota Duluth and a PhD from Cornell University. Singhal then joined AT&T Labs, before moving to Google in 2000.
At Uber, Singhal was reportedly overseeing the mapping division and was also involved in dispatch, marketing and pricing, and reported directly to Uber CEO Kalanick.