Uber executive fired amid reports he obtained rape victim’s medical records

A top Uber executive who reportedly obtained the medical records of a woman who was raped by her Uber driver was only fired after journalists learned of the incident, it emerged on Wednesday.

According to reports on the tech website Recode and in the New York Times, Eric Alexander, the president of business for Uber Asia Pacific, obtained the medical records of the victim in a 2014 rape case that caused widespread outrage in India.

An Uber spokesperson confirmed that Alexander was no longer with the company, but declined to comment further on the allegations. Alexander did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The rape case prompted Indian authorities to temporarily ban Uber in the capital city.

Alexander reportedly traveled to India to investigate the matter and later shared the records with CEO Travis Kalanick and senior vice-president Emil Michael.

The trio of executives reportedly cast doubt upon the victim’s account and suggested it could be part of a conspiracy by rival firm Ola to damage Uber.

“It is incredible in this day and age that one could even fathom that a legitimate rape victim was part of a conspiracy by a rival firm to harm Uber,” said Douglas Wigdor, the attorney who represented the victim when she sued Uber in the US for negligence and fraud.

“Sadly, these views, coupled with the scrutiny of private medical records, support rape culture and must end,” he added. “Given the media reports, it is our sincere hope that Messrs Kalanick and Alexander will promptly be issuing an apology to our former client.”

The driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison. At the time of the attack, he was facing charges in four other criminal cases, including another rape case, prompting anger at Uber’s failure to perform effective background checks on drivers.



Uber ‘betrayed the people of India’, say activists

An Uber spokesperson said that the company cooperated with the prosecution in the case and settled the US lawsuit for more than $1m.

The news of Alexander’s firing comes amid intense scrutiny of Uber’s corporate culture, following months of allegations of a toxic workplace rife with harassment and discrimination and the departures of a raft of executives.

“To survivors everywhere, including to Uber’s own employees, it communicates a belief that women lie about sexual assault,” said Joelle Emerson, the CEO of a company that helps tech companies diversify their workforces.

“To seek to discredit a survivor by reviewing her confidential medical records is not only a stunning violation of privacy; it reinforces all of the sexist and misogynistic beliefs about sexual assault,” she added. “It’s the definition of rape culture.”

On Monday, Uber announced that it had fired 20 employees as a result of an investigation by the law firm Perkins Coie following claims of sexual harassment. Alexander was not one of those 20, according to the Times and Recode, which reported that he was only fired after Uber received inquiries about the case from reporters.

The Perkins Coie investigation was initiated after a former employee published a viral blogpost detailing allegations of widespread sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The firm looked into 215 reports of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, bullying, and other workplace problems. In addition to the 20 terminations, 31 employees were required to attend training and seven were given final warnings. Fifty-seven complaints are still under review.

Uber has also been undergoing a separate investigation led by former US attorney general Eric Holder into its culture, governance and values. The findings of that investigation are expected to be made public next week.

The allegations around the handling of the Delhi rape case will likely bring further scrutiny of Kalanick and his top lieutenant, Michael. Following the March release of a video showing Kalanick berating an Uber driver, the executive admitted that he needed “leadership help” and began a search for a chief operating officer.

Michael apologized in 2014 for suggesting that Uber hire a team of opposition researchers to investigate journalists critical of the company. In March, The Information reported the Kalanick and Michael were part of a group of senior Uber employees who visited an escort/karaoke bar during a work trip to Seoul.

Uber board member Arianna Huffington told CNBC today that the company was planning to embark on a “restructuring of the management team”. She also addressed her previous comments to CNN denying that sexual harassment was a “systemic problem” for Uber. “I never said there wasn’t a systemic cultural problem; I was talking specifically about sexual harassment,” she told CNBC. “It all depends on your definition of ‘systemic.’”


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