Uber has once again found itself at the center of controversy after one of its software engineers committed suicide, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. His family members attribute Joseph Thomas' untimely death in August to the company's stressful and racist work culture.
Widow Zecole Thomas has hired a lawyer to hold Uber accountable for what she believes her family deserves: workers' compensation benefits.
Before his death, Thomas expressed both to his father and wife that he felt immense pressure and stress to the point where he was scared he would lose his job. In meetings with a psychiatrist, Thomas told the doctor he was experiencing panic attacks, trouble concentrating, and debilitating anxiety. Everyone instructed him to leave his job, but he was adamant that he could not.
“He was always the smartest guy in the room,” said his father, Joe Thomas. But while working at Uber, “he went down the tubes. He became someone with very little confidence in himself. The guy just fell apart.”
His wife added, “It’s hard to explain, but he wasn’t himself at all. He’d say things like, ‘My boss doesn’t like me.’ His personality changed totally; he was horribly concerned about his work, to the point it was almost unbelievable. He was saying he couldn’t do anything right.”
His family also cites racism as playing a role in the 33-year-old's death. According to a March 2017 diversity report, only one percent of Uber's tech team is African-American.
Mrs. Thomas' attorney, Richard Richardson, added, “We think it was stress and harassment induced by his job, between him being one of the few African Americans there, working around the clock and the culture of Uber."
Richardson said that the benefits could add up to nearly $722,000. Some of it will be a lump sum, and others would come in weekly checks of $1,100 until his two boys who are currently seven and nine, turn 18.
Early investors, such as Freada Kapor Klein and Mitch Kapor lambasted Uber in an open letter, blaming it for “a culture plagued by disrespect, exclusionary cliques, lack of diversity, and tolerance for bullying and harassment of every form.”
Uber said it took the allegations seriously and hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate its workplace for systemic issues relating to sexism, diversity, and inclusion.