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Uber sexual harassment complaints not all that terrible, says women's lawyer

San Francisco

ALLEGATIONS about rampant sexual harassment at Uber Technologies helped drive Travis Kalanick out of his job as boss last year, but a lawyer for two women suing the company told a judge that he could not find many workers who said "something terrible" happened to them.

What employees said in written complaints and interviews "wasn't nearly as powerful as I thought it would be", said Jahan Sagafi, who represents two female Uber engineers who are seeking approval of a US$10 million class-action settlement.

"Frankly, the lack of enthusiasm among the class members gave me pause about the case."

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Mr Sagafi was responding to questions from US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who voiced concerns at a hearing on Tuesday in Oakland, California, about the settlement being structured with separate funds for claims over gender pay disparities and sexual harassment.

Mr Sagafi said his law firm's investigation found only a few people who wanted to come forward to say they suffered egregious harassment at Uber.

A US$1.9 million portion of the accord is earmarked to compensate current and former employees who file detailed reports on how they were harassed. The amount to be awarded to any individual would be determined by a settlement administrator using a point system.

The judge asked why Roxana del Toro Lopez, one of two named plaintiffs, is slated to get US$20,000 more than the other woman leading the case.

Mr Sagafi said it was because she was stalked by someone who threatened to rape and kill her. Uber's attorney pointed out that the stalker was not an employee of the ride-hailing company.

The judge concluded the hearing without ruling on Uber's request for preliminary approval of the accord, which includes almost US$5 million for pay equity and as much as US$3 million for plaintiffs' attorneys. BLOOMBERG