Uber should ban employee booze and drug use during 'core work hours,' report suggests

Key Points
  • On Tuesday law firm Covington & Burling highlighted 47 ideas for Uber to improve its workplace culture.
  • One suggestion includes controlled substances.
  • A New York Times report described a Las Vegas meeting where Uber employees drank, gambled and used cocaine.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to take time away from the company

As part of an ugly inquiry into Uber's workplace culture, a law firm suggested on Tuesday that the start-up ban drug use at work-related events and curb the "amount of alcohol available in the office."

Institute and Enforce Clear Guidelines on Alcohol Consumption and the Use of Controlled Substances.
Uber should take steps to provide clear guidelines about acceptable and unacceptable uses of alcohol and strictly prohibit the use of controlled substances, including prohibiting consumption of alcohol during core work hours and prohibiting consumption of non-prescription controlled substances during core work hours, at work events, or at other work-sponsored events. With respect to alcohol consumption at after-hours work events and at other work-sponsored events, Uber should consider limiting the budget available to managers for alcohol purchases, restrict reimbursement for alcohol-related events, and include training for managers on appropriate events for retreats and out-of-work events. Uber should also encourage responsible drinking, which can include limiting the amount of alcohol that is available in the office, de-emphasizing alcohol as a component of work events, and otherwise taking appropriate action to discipline and address inappropriate employee conduct fueled by alcohol consumption. Uber should support work events in which alcohol is not a strong component to ensure that employees who do not partake in consumption of alcohol still have opportunities to engage in networking and team building activities.

The inquiry, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Tammy Albarran, partners at the law firm Covington & Burling, was sparked after a former employee released a blog that included examples of sexual harassment and gender bias.

The blog post was followed by a series of other reports about the culture at Uber, including a New York Times report describing a Las Vegas meeting where Uber employees drank, gambled and used cocaine. A manager who groped female employees during that trip was terminated within 12 hours, according to the Times.

After that report, Uber's head of human resources told the Times the company was "totally committed to healing wounds of the past." (Voters in California, where Uber is headquartered, approved the sale of marijuana for recreational use in November.)

Though the recommendations don't directly address that incident or others, the report did highlight 47 ideas for the ride-hailing company to improve, including splitting some of the responsibilities of CEO Travis Kalanick.

"Implementing these recommendations will improve our culture, promote fairness and accountability, and establish processes and systems to ensure the mistakes of the past will not be repeated," Uber said in a statement.

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