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Uber fires 20 employees after harassment probe: sources

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(Reuters) — Uber Technologies Inc. has fired 20 employees following an investigation by a law firm into sexual harassment and other claims at the ride-hailing company, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Uber told staff about the actions it was taking in an all-hands meeting on Tuesday following a report by law firm Perkins Coie, which it hired to probe harassment and other employee claims.

The law firm is working in parallel with a broader probe into company culture and practices by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Perkins Coie said it investigated 215 harassment and other complaints going back as far as 2012, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Uber said it had taken remedial action in 58 cases and decided no action was needed on 100 more. Other investigations are continuing, the person said.

Privately held Uber, valued at $68 billion, also told staff on Tuesday it would expand its employee relations unit to better investigate claims and that it would dramatically increase management training since most Uber managers were first-time bosses, one of the people said.

The move to fire employees comes after a series of events this year that have raised questions about Uber's business model and leadership.

In February, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler said in a blog post that managers and human resources officers had not punished her manager after she reported his unwanted sexual advances.

Uber also was caught using technology to avoid regulator crackdowns, Chief Executive Travis Kalanick berated an Uber driver in a widely watched video and the company is in legal battles around the world over the way its ride service business operates.

Mr. Holder and Tammy Albarran, who are partners at the law firm Covington & Burling, were asked to conduct a broad review of sexual harassment as well as general questions about diversity and inclusion, and their report has been shared with members of the Uber board of directors, a company spokesman said.

Uber is expected to discuss it with staff next week, a person familiar with the matter said.

On Monday, Uber said it had hired Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei as senior vice president of leadership and strategy, reporting to Mr. Kalanick. The role includes "organizational transformation."

Bloomberg reported some of the meeting details earlier on Tuesday and said that Bobbie Wilson, an attorney at Perkins Coie, gave the assessment to a meeting for Uber's more than 12,000 employees, who attended the meeting in person in San Francisco or dialed in from around the world.

Uber did not immediately respond to requests for comment.