Over the past few weeks, Uber has been in the spotlight as employees have been complaining about the ride-sharing app’s negative work culture. Recently, another employee has come forward and revealed details of a company night out at a South Korean escort bar.
According to The Information (via Engadget), violinist Gabi Holzwarth, the former girlfriend of company CEO Travis Kalanick, recalled a 2014 trip by a group of employees to a Seoul karaoke-escort bar. Kalanick and Holzwarth left after an hour, while a “visibly unhappy” female Uber manager in the group quickly left and reported the incident to HR a year later.
The Verge reports that the manager complained to the company’s HR department, saying that she was uncomfortable at how her male co-workers picked out women working at the bar out of a lineup.
“[I]t made me feel horrible as a girl (seeing those girls with number tags and being called out is really degrading,” the manager noted in the exchange with HR. In another conversation with Holzwarth, the employee said that she didn’t know what was going on until they “got into the room.”
It also appears that Uber’s senior vice president of business, Emil Michael, has contacted Holzwarth in the last month in an attempt to stop the trip from becoming public knowledge. It appears that Michael told the violinist to simply say that she went to karaoke and had a good time.
Feeling uneasy at the exchange, Holzwarth spoke with the company’s public relations executive, Rachel Whetstone, and she also did the same with Kalanick. She told the two that she wouldn’t lie about the incident if asked. Holzwarth also told The Information that she wouldn’t have considered speaking out “had Mr. Michael not attempted to ‘silence’ her.”
Michael spoke with the news outlet, saying that he thought to reach out to Holzwarth was the right thing to do since reporters might try to contact her.
“Her recollection of this conversation was different from mine and I am very sorry if the purpose of my call was misunderstood,” he said.
Meanwhile, a statement from Uber said that the incident “happened about three years ago and was previously reported to human resources.”
For more, check out Jobs & Hire’s report on Uber’s new teen program.