After a crescendo of criticism grew last week over how it was handling an alleged sexual harassment claim against a senior member of its team, Ushahidi today (July 17) said that it has placed the accused employee on suspension.
The company also released a statement outlining the chronology of how the events transpired and how both parties reported the issue, engaged legal counsel, and finally reached a decision.
The new updates come after the global crisis-mapping platform enterprise said last week that a since-departed employee lodged a complaint against a senior executive. The revelations are a major stain on Ushahidi’s carefully managed corporate image, and a wake up call for a nascent tech industry admired all over the world. The company received criticism for how it handled the case including from one its original founders who wrote that the current board and management’s response to the allegations was “unacceptable.”
The original incident in question took place on Jan. 19 when the company hosted a retreat at the Aberdare Country Club in central Kenya. But it wasn’t until May 4 that the plaintiff officially complained to the board. A week later, on May 11, Ushahidi announced to the complainant that it was dealing with the matter, and three days later, wrote to the accused asking him to respond within three days. A change of lawyers and travel engagements prolonged the process, with the first evidence of the case presented on June 10. After reviewing the evidence, the accused executive stated that the copy of the evidence received was “faulty” and needed proper information before proceeding with the inquiry.
On June 28, the plaintiff resigned from Ushahidi after rejecting to agree to the terms of inquiry set by all parties. But in early July, inter-party hearings were held, and Ushahidi’s board gave seven days to communicate its decision on the case. After receiving a legal opinion from its lawyers, the Board communicated its decision to both groups and placed the respondent on suspension.
Ushahidi said “the complexity of the issue and number of parties involved” had led to the protracted process and that they will announce their final decision in the coming days.
The news and rumors of the allegation first appeared in early July on social media and in tech blogs in Kenya—right after the three parties had held meetings and the board had not reached its final decision. On July 10, Ushahidi confirmed the rumors through a statement, saying it was treating the matter “seriously.”