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Uber is going to use the 'Rooney Rule' in hiring — here's what that means

  • An outside law firm made recommendations to Uber, including that it start using the 'Rooney Rule' in hiring practices.
  • The rule stemmed from the National Football League, and requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when there's a head coaching spot open.

Among the many recommendations made by the independent report provided to Uber by law firm Covington & Burling (also known as the Eric Holder report), is that Uber start to follow the "Rooney Rule" for its hiring practices.

What the heck is the Rooney Rule?

According to the University of Pennsylvania, the Rooney Rule dates back to 2002, when the National Football League created a new mandate that teams "interview a minority candidate when making a new appointment to a head coaching position."

The rule, which went into effect a year later in 2003, is named after Dan Rooney, who was the NFL's diversity committee chairman and is the former chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's become more common among tech firms who are working to increase diversity in the office space. According to a September report from The Wall Street Journal, Facebook, Pinterest, Microsoft and Amazon all use some form of the Rooney Rule in hiring practices.

Here's what the Uber letter specifically calls for:

The Covington & Burling report calls for "at least one woman and/or member of a population currently underrepresented on each applicant interview panel — not just the panels for diverse applicants — to ensure diverse perspectives in the feedback and evaluation of candidates for positions at Uber and to reduce the potential impact of unconscious bias."

It said that the "success of the Rooney Rule is documented, with research showing a noticeable increase in the number of minority head coaches hired since its adoption."

The Covington & Burling report's recommendations are based on more than 200 interviews with current and former Uber employees.

The firm dug into Uber's corporate culture following a public complaint raised by former Uber employee Susan J. Fowler, after which CEO Travis Kalanick ordered an "urgent investigation. A separate investigation led by Perkins Coie resulted in the dismissal of more than 20 employees earlier this month.

Kalanick said Tuesday he's taking time away from the firm.

Here's the full text about the Rooney Rule from the report:

Adopt a Version of the "Rooney Rule." Uber should utilize the Rooney Rule for women and other underrepresented populations for key positions, wherein each pool of candidates interviewed for each identified position includes at least one woman and one member of an underrepresented minority group, thereby ensuring that members of the populations currently underrepresented in Uber's workplace are interviewed with appropriate consistency. The Rooney Rule has its origins in the National Football League. It requires NFL franchisees to interview at least one minority candidate for all head coach and general manager positions.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Dan Rooney's title at the Pittsburgh Steelers.