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Uber Said to Consider Changes to Employee Stock Compensation

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Uber headquarters in San Francisco. The company is said to be discussing how to make it easier for employees who leave to take their stock with them. Credit Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Uber has lurched from one blow to its reputation after another. Now it is trying to contain some of the damage to employees.

Uber, the privately held ride-hailing company, is considering ways to make its stock compensation policies more friendly to its workers, according to three people with knowledge of an employee meeting this week where Uber executives discussed the issue, and who asked to remain anonymous because the meeting was confidential.

In particular, Uber is discussing how to potentially move away from severe restrictions around its stock so that employees who leave the company can take shares with them more easily, these people said. That would help Uber change the perception that it exerts too much control over stock compensation.

The discussion comes after several scandals involving Uber. In January, the company contended with a #deleteUber campaign by riders who perceived Uber as profiting from President Trump’s immigration ban. Last month, Uber grappled with questions about its workplace culture and a lawsuit over its self-driving cars. This week, it dealt with concerns over the character of its chief executive, Travis Kalanick, after a video of him berating an Uber driver became public.

The events have buffeted employees at Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco and elsewhere. Some have said that they plan to leave the company. On Friday, Ed Baker, vice president of product and growth, resigned from the company, a departure that was earlier reported by Recode.

Another Uber worker, who declined to be named, said that while some employees may have quit, turnover has not changed much in the last month.

An Uber spokesman declined to comment.

Stock compensation has long been an issue for Uber workers. Early employees, who joined the company several years ago, received stock options — which allow them to buy shares at a low price — as part of their compensation packages.

Yet unlike other technology companies, Uber gives employees only 30 days to buy those shares if they leave. At other companies, departing employees get months or years to buy the shares. If Uber’s workers do not buy the shares in the 30-day period, they forfeit the stock back to the company.

Buying private company stock like Uber’s also creates a tax bill for individuals, a bill that has swelled as Uber’s valuation has soared to close to $ 70 billion. Some Uber employees have said they have been unable to come up with enough money to pay for their stock and the tax bill. They said that had left them little choice but to stay at the company and wait for a public offering of stock, or leave and give up stock that could someday be lucrative.

Uber has moved over the years to give workers more options with their stock compensation. About two years ago, the company stopped using stock options for compensation and switched to restricted stock units, which do not incur a tax bill if employees leave the company. Uber has also given long-serving employees the opportunity to sell back a percentage of their shares to the company, in a program that was reported earlier by Bloomberg.

The issue of stock options was raised again on Tuesday at an Uber employee meeting, the people with knowledge of the event said.

At the meeting, one employee asked Mr. Kalanick whether he would consider giving them years after they leave the company to exercise their right to buy the company’s stock and not just 30 days.

Mr. Kalanick said the company’s board had agreed to let management discuss the issue, though no decision had been made. He also asked Uber’s head of human resources, Liane Hornsey, and general counsel, Salle Yoo, to help answer the employee’s question. It is unclear when the company may make any decisions about the stock compensation policies.

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