The latest tidbit to trickle out from Uber's sexual harassment/culture-of-inappropriateness probe is an email, known internally as "the Miami letter," obtained by Recode, that CEO Travis Kalanick sent out to all Uber employees in 2013 (there were only 400 at the time). The email appears to be Kalanick's effort to bro-i-fy some concerns that the legal department had ahead of the company's first major off-site retreat, a celebration at Miami Beach's Shore Club in October 2013 for the company's rolling out in its 50th global city and for reaching a billion-dollar run rate.
Using what he called "a symbol that has internal meaning" at the company, the Chinese character for 9, or 九, in his subject line Recode explains this is tech-bro speak for "billion" or 10 to the 9th Kalanick laid out do's and don'ts for the retreat, which included bro jokes like "We do not have a budget to bail anyone out of jail. Don't be that guy." and "Do not throw large kegs off of tall buildings."
Consumerist also notes the amusing paranoia Kalanick has about the possibility of the press "infiltrating" the event.
But the part that caused concern for people in the company and likely caused this to bubble up out of the probe that cost over 20 people their jobs this week is the #4 item on Travis's Dont's list:
4) Do not have sex with another employee UNLESS a) you have asked that person for that privilege and they have responded with an emphatic "YES! I will have sex with you" AND b) the two (or more) of you do not work in the same chain of command. Yes, that means that Travis will be celibate on this trip. #CEOLife #FML
While on the surface this may seem innocuous to some, to others it's going to imply a lot about the young company's pervasive culture not to mention the fact that any high-level executive having sex with any lower level employee regardless of chain of command could easily become a legal problem down the line. As Recode notes, it was a sexual encounter at this very retreat that became one of the reasons VP of product and growth Ed Baker decided to resign earlier this year.
It is the idea that there was some out-of-control pattern of inappropriate behavior among employees, which particularly impacted female employees, that led Uber board member Arianna Huffington to step in in February and say she'd be holding executives' "feet to the fire" over the sexual harassment and other allegations brought by former engineer Susan Fowler.
Early investors Mitch and Freada Kapor also wrote an open letter to the company at the time, saying, "Uber's outsize success in terms of growth of market share, revenues and valuation are impressive, but can never excuse a culture plagued by disrespect, exclusionary cliques, lack of diversity, and tolerance for bullying and harassment of every form."
As CBS 5 notes, Kalanick was reportedly advised not to send the letter back in 2013 because of its tone, but he didn't take that advice, and reportedly sent the same do's and don'ts list out a year later when the company had 1,800 employees.
This email being made public is just icing on the cake for Uber schadenfreude addicts, and it comes at the end of a really bad few weeks/months for Kalanick.
Not all unicorns are without growing pains.