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Uber boss takes leave of absence: "I need to work on myself"

World

Uber boss Travis Kalanick will take a leave of absence for an unspecified period and let his leadership team run the troubled ride-hailing company while he's gone.

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Kalanick told employees about his decision in a memo overnight, Australian time, saying he needs time off to grieve for his mother, who died in a May boating accident.

He also conceded he’s responsible for the company’s current situation and needs to become a better leader.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Photo: Evan Agostini / Invision via AP

The announcement comes as former US Attorney Eric Holder released a list of recommendations to improve Uber’s toxic culture.

Holder recommended Kalanick be relieved of some leadership responsibilities and that Uber use performance reviews to hold senior managers accountable by setting metrics for improving diversity and responsiveness to employee complaints.

Holder’s firm, Covington & Burling LLP, and a second firm, Perkins Coie, were asked to conduct separate examinations of Uber’s workplace culture after a former engineer levelled charges of sexual harassment.

In February, Susan Fowler detailed in a blog her sexual harassment during her year working at Uber, including being propositioned by her manager.

She reported him to human resources and was told he would get a lecture but no further punishment because he was a “high performer”, she wrote.

Holder’s investigators conducted more than 200 interviews with current and former employees.

After Fowler’s blog, Uber Technologies made changes in human resources and opened a 24-hour hotline for employees.

Last week, the company fired 20 people including some managers at the recommendation of Perkins Coie, which probed specific complaints made to the company about sex harassment, bullying, and retaliation for reporting problems.

That firm checked into 215 complaints, with 57 still under investigation.

Under Kalanick, Uber has disrupted the taxi industry in hundreds of cities – including Adelaide – and turned the San Francisco-based company into the world’s most valuable startup.

Uber’s valuation has climbed to nearly $US70 billion ($A93 billion).

-AP

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