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Uber is taking care of weak links as strength is tested by lawsuit

(BUSINESS NEWS) As the lawsuit between Uber and Waymo begins to wrap up, Uber seems to be tying up a few loose ends of their own.

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Only as strong as your weakest link

The fierce competition between Waymo and Uber just witnessed a new Game of Thrones-esque twist. On Tuesday, Uber fired Anthony Levandowski, a vice president of Technology in the company.

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Anthony Levandowski, a brief history

Levandowski was recently in the news for being the engineer accused of stealing trade secrets regarding self-driving automobiles when he left Waymo. After Levandowski quit working at Waymo, he then started his own company called Otto.

Things got complicated when Uber acquired Otto last year for $680 million.

Waymo, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, sued Uber in civil court a few months after the Otto acquisition accusing Levandowski of stealing confidential information—9.7 gigabytes of data— and taking it directly to a competitor.

The lawsuit between the two tech giants, now in court, has very high stakes.

Uber’s future depends on the case’s outcome

Google has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars for nearly a decade to dominate the autonomous car technology market.

Meanwhile,Uber’s future is squarely hedged on creating cars that can drive themselves.

Uber’s latest firing may indicate the company’s unwillingness to participate in a drawn-out lawsuit and further controversies, despite the risk of suffering setbacks in their ability to bring self-automated cars to the market.

In March, Mr. Levandowski, who is not being sued personally by Waymo, claimed his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when a federal judge ordered him to hand over evidence and testimony relating to the accusations.

That was unexpected

Reports indicate that Uber urged Levandowski’s cooperation, but felt frustrated by his intransigence and obfuscation from then onwards. A split developed. Levandowski stopped reporting to the CEO, and recused himself from decisions regarding lidar technology, at the heart of self-automation. Soon afterwards, California District Judge William Alsupi legally barred Levandowski from any work on lidar.

The Court also ordered Uber to produce painstaking details about Levandowski’s hiring, and to return any stolen data.

Uber faced an inescapable reality. It could not use its biggest techie’s knowledge on the very thing he was hired to perform.

Earlier this month, an Uber lawyer warned Levandowski of “adverse employment action”, stating “while we have respected your personal liberties, it is our view that the court’s order requires us to make these demands of you,” adding “We insist that you do everything in your power to assist us in complying with the order.”

Arm’s length

Not long ago Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick described Mr. Levandowski as “one of the world’s leading autonomous engineers” when he wooed the whole team of tech engineers at Otto into Uber’s fold.

A year later, his company was forced to fire their star engineer for missing an internal company deadline to turn over information regarding the Waymo lawsuit.

Some may see this as the self-automation wizard’s self-destruction. On the other hand, perhaps it is a calculated risk to avoid personal criminal charges, given his alleged culpability.

#UberWaymo

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

Business News

Study: Employers are inadvertently punishing women that suffer from Endo

(BUSINESS NEWS) A new study reveals the widespread impact of Endo (Endometriosis) in the workforce as well as the entire economy. Change must be made. Quickly.

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Women still face many barriers in their career. It’s been more than half a century since federal law addressed gender discrimination in the workplace, but it still occurs. Whether it’s lack of access to training, an inability to speak up, or pay inequality, it’s all wrong. Sadly, a new study identifies another potential barrier to a woman’s career path – endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) reports that “endometriosis happens when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (womb) grows outside the uterus.”

Endo, as its often called, causes varying levels of pain, often chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis. The tissue outside the uterus grows in areas where it can cause even more problems by blocking fallopian tubes and forming scar tissue. There is no cure, but there are some treatment options that can work.

Endo affects about 11% of American women who are ages 15 to 44. Despite the fact that the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology describes endometriosis as “nothing short of a public health emergency,” data suggests that about 60% of endo cases go undiagnosed.

I repeat: 60% of endo cases go undiagnosed.

More than 6 million American women are living with the symptoms of endo without knowing the cause or having the capability to manage their symptoms.

Endometriosis was once considered a career woman’s disease, but a two-year-long study from Finland shows that the disease shapes a woman’s career, not the other way around.

Women with endo take 10 or more sick days than women without endo. They also use more disability days. Other studies support these findings. A 2011 analysis reported that women with endo could lose almost 11 hours of work each week because their endo made it difficult to complete tasks. One US study estimated that women with endo experience more sick days each year, up to 20.

These women often have a lower annual salary and slower salary growth.

How can employers address endometriosis in the workplace?

It’s difficult enough to discuss any type of health problem at work, let alone one that relates to menstruation. Employers have a big problem just dealing with short-term illnesses. It’s hard when a key employee is out for one or two weeks from a surgery. Long-term chronic illnesses, especially those that are invisible, are challenging in the workplace.

Most workplace cultures aren’t designed for people with chronic conditions or disabilities.

It’s going to take a major shift in thinking to deal with endometriosis in the workplace.

Endo isn’t painful period cramps. It’s a serious condition without a cure. Employees who are dealing with endo may be battling intense pain or fatigue. Yes, work needs to get done, but when people are living with a chronic condition, they need accommodations.

Endometriosis may be a woman’s disease, but it does impact the entire economy. One study found that endo had a similar economic burden to that of heart disease or diabetes. Most employers would not think twice about a man who needed extra time to deal with coronary disease, but women often don’t get that consideration, regardless of the condition.

Women with endo aren’t incapable or shirking their duties. They may just need to deal with their pain to stay focused at work. Let’s drop the stigma and help accommodate women who deal with endo.

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Business News

Everyone should have an interview escape plan

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but sometimes things can go south – here’s how to escape when they do.

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“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45 minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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Business News

How to keep Pride month going year-round (without rainbow washing)

(BUSINESS NEWS) Pride month is over and companies have deleted their rainbow website adornments. Without much effort, your company can easily keep the commitment to kindness going – here’s how.

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Pride month in the US is behind us now and already the rainbows have faded from mega-corporate logos and branding. Making a constant commitment to inclusivity and anti-discrimination isn’t always easy and marketing has minefields aplenty.

So how does a small business navigate this? We’re starting from a deficit of trust and there are a few reasons why.

The large scale, mega-corporate marketing and PR targeted at the LGBTQIA+ community that goes on in June for Pride month, collectively referred to as “rainbow washing” (or sometimes even less flattering pandering accusations), has come under fire for being largely lip service and sometimes downright harmful by community advocates.

For example, one independent journalist just penned an editorial, putting AT&T on blast for publicly supporting LGBTQIA+ causes while funding political initiatives that negatively impact the community. I’d consider this a prime example of what not to do.

Businesses who want to be genuine in their commitment to pride have plenty of options that don’t require vast marketing or PR budgets.

Pride is ultimately about celebrating progress and obstacles surmounted by the community and highlighting the work needed to promote equality for everyone, regardless of identity or orientation.

The first thing any business can do is reflect internally. Address any dirty laundry that might be kicked behind the couch in the corner.

Try asking these questions:

  • Are our policies gender neutral?
  • Do any job titles involve gendered terms?
  • Is the language in morality clauses modern?
  • How do your benefits packages handle LGBTQIA+ health issues?

The other thing businesses can do, even if you are a business of just one person, is be an active member of your community.

Below are a few accessible, actionable suggestions on how to promote a welcoming and inclusive world:

  • Listen – Be informed about what goes on in your locale. Sometimes just being aware is more than half the battle.
  • Speak – if there is something going on in your community that you have a strong opinion on, speak up. Twitter is popular these days. Few things are more impactful than a call to city hall or the commerce department from a local business owner. You have more power than you probably realize. And yes, it IS good for business because it builds trust and loyalty within your customer base. Good things happen to those who make an effort to do the right thing.
  • Ask Questions – Nothing beats good old honesty and accountability. Colleagues, customers, and the community at large will respect you more if you are willing to open a dialog. This can be individual conversations, or a short survey in a newsletter or social media post. This builds trust and gives you an opportunity to serve as a role model for others.
  • Back Local Events – Get your name and logo out there. I know this one feels inaccessible to smaller businesses, but hear me out. Obviously, organisations running events like financial or in-kind contributions. If you can do that, great! A lot of organisations struggle with finding safe meeting spaces- can you unlock the office for 2 hours one evening after work one night a month? Something as simple as volunteering your parking lot for some extra space or putting a banner on your webpage for a week makes a big difference too. Push their events on your socials. Can I borrow your printer?

At the end of the day, every day, everyone just wants to be treated equally, with kindness and compassion.

Last I checked, those are two things we haven’t put a commercial price tag on yet. So, above all else, be kind. It’s amazing how far that can get you.

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