Companies including Uber that depend on workers classified as independent contractors are lobbying for laws to protect that system. Meanwhile, a California court ruling sides with workers who sued, saying they should be considered employees of the companies. Credit: Syafiq Adnan/Shutterstock.com

A former Uber employee claimed he was fired last year after sticking up for female colleagues facing sexual harassment, according to a formal complaint that has not previously been made public.

Female co-workers sought his help with “sex-based discrimination and harassment they were suffering at the hands of a male supervisor,” his September complaint to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing states. The department released the complaint in response to a public records request by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, but blacked out his name.

The former employee stated that he raised the issue with Uber’s human resources department several times, but the department didn’t investigate the allegations. Instead, he said he was told: “We get a lot of phone calls from employees that we don’t always act on.”

Shortly afterward, he was “subjected to a retaliatory investigation” and fired in March 2016, his complaint says.

The California anti-discrimination agency gave the former employee permission to file a private lawsuit. San Francisco labor attorney John Mullan, who represents the man, declined to comment.

Uber did not respond to Reveal’s requests for comment.

The complaint adds grist to a controversy over sexual harassment at Uber that has been tearing at the company’s reputation this year. Former engineer Susan Fowler ignited an outcry in February with her story of sexism and harassment at Uber. She said she faced lies, indifference and hostility from the company’s HR representatives.

In response, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick ordered an internal investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and overseen by board member Ariana Huffington. A report on the investigation is expected this month.

Uber has suffered numerous public relations nightmares in recent months, from a video of Kalanick arguing with a driver to the disclosure by The New York Times that Uber used a tool called Greyball to evade law enforcement. Uber has also been hit with the departures of several executives and a lawsuit accusing Uber of stealing trade secrets from a rival self-driving car business.

In December, Reveal reported that former security professionals at Uber were concerned the company didn’t adequately protect its customers’ personal information. One said Uber employees even helped ex-boyfriends stalk their ex-girlfriends and looked up the personal travels of celebrities.

Will Evans can be reached at wevans@revealnews.org. Follow him on Twitter: @willCIR.

Will Evans is a senior reporter and producer for Reveal, covering labor and tech. His reporting has prompted government investigations, legislation, reforms and prosecutions. A series on working conditions at Amazon warehouses was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and won a Gerald Loeb Award. His work has also won multiple Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards, including for a series on safety problems at Tesla. Other investigations have exposed secret spying at Uber, illegal discrimination in the temp industry and rampant fraud in California's drug rehab system for the poor. Prior to joining The Center for Investigative Reporting in 2005, Evans was a reporter at The Sacramento Bee. He is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.