Widow Blames Suicide of Uber Engineer on Work Stress, Discrimination

Law Firm Newswire



Los Angeles, CA (Law Firm Newswire) August 11, 2017 – Zecole Thomas is suing Uber for $720,000 in worker’s compensation after her husband, an engineer at Uber, committed suicide due to work-related stress that “broke” him.

Joseph Thomas, who died at 33, moved with his wife and two sons to California after landing a dream job at the ride-hailing company’s San Francisco headquarters as a software engineer in 2016. Five months into the job, Thomas shot and killed himself.

His widow blames his sudden decline in mental health and subsequent suicide on the intense and degrading work environment at Uber that left him “broken” and without a sense of purpose or self-esteem.

Uber previously denied Zecole Thomas’ claim for worker’s compensation because Joseph had worked at the company for fewer than six months, exempting him from coverage for psychiatric issues. However, California law mandates that companies must offer exceptions to the rule when the psychiatric issue arises due to sudden and extreme working conditions.

Thomas’ lawyers are making the case that Joseph endured extraordinary work conditions at Uber due to its toxic environment, long work hours, intense pressure from management and cut-throat work culture. These conditions, they argue, caused his panic attacks, insomnia, depression and anxiety about losing his job.

“He wasn’t himself at all. He’d say things like, ‘My boss doesn’t like me,’” Zecole Thomas said in a San Francisco Chronicle report. “His personality changed totally; he was horribly concerned about his work, to the point it was almost unbelievable. He was saying he couldn’t do anything right.”

Additionally, Thomas’ lawyers argue that there was an element of racial discrimination that may have contributed to the toxic work culture that severely affected Joseph’s mental health. Just one percent of tech employees at Uber are black, and only one of them is in a leadership position. One significant way to foster positive self-esteem and mentorship in the workplace for black employees is by having black leadership. The lawyers argue that Uber does not care about fostering that kind of environment for its minority employees.

Uber said in a statement that Joseph Thomas never filed a complaint for racial discrimination or workplace stress.

Uber’s work culture has come under scrutiny lately after software engineer Susan Fowler reported in a blog post that the company had ignored her complaints of sexual harassment and sexism in the workplace. An investigation revealed over 200 cases of sexual harassment and misconduct at the company.

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