A woman who worked as a software engineer for one of the two most prominent ride-hailing companies in the country wrote a blog post following her departure from the company in 2017. In it, she described the gender discrimination and sexual harassment she experienced there. At first, the response seemed to be positive and there was no initial sign of recrimination. Before long, however, she became the subject of an aggressive campaign of intimidation and humiliation.
The former employee describes incidents of people clandestinely following her and attempting to hack social media accounts belonging to her and to people in her family. She describes having to get a second cell phone to handle all the two-factor authorization requests from people trying to access her accounts without permission. Rumors attempting to discredit her and her story started to spread from an unknown source. For example, reporters asked her to confirm that she had received encouragement from a rival company or other powerful people in Silicon Valley to write the post.
By her own account, at the time the former engineer had no concrete evidence that her former employers were behind the alleged smear campaign against her. However, she does recall receiving a phone call from a private investigator claiming to be working on behalf of someone against her former employer and asking for information. After refusing to cooperate, the former employee describes performing some online research on the investigation firm and found that it had a history of helping clients discredit victims of sexual misconduct.
The tide turned with the advent of the “#MeToo” movement against sexual misconduct. The CEO of the company at which the woman worked ultimately stepped down following an investigation headed by a former attorney general of the United States.
It is possible for an employer to retaliate against a former employee even after the professional relationship between the two has ended. Nevertheless, employer retaliation is illegal, and people who believe they have experienced harm as a result may wish to contact an attorney.