A wife is suing Uber for her husband’s tragic death—she blames stress and racism in the workplace for his suicide.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, last year when Joseph Thomas, a hard-working software engineer, began working at Uber’s San Francisco headquarters, he was thrilled. Thomas believed the $170,000 a year job would give him a chance to grow, but by August his mental health rapidly declined and he ended up shooting himself in the head.
His wife and family are now demanding that Uber be held responsible for Joseph’s death.
While Joseph thrived at his past jobl, he confided to his father and wife that “he felt immense pressure and stress at work, and was scared he’d lose his job,” the Chronicle wrote. Uber suggested that Joseph see a doctor after he experienced several panic attacks, trouble concentrating and anxiety. But his insurance didn’t pay for visits to a psychiatrist until he had been at the company for 6 months or more—Joseph had only been there for five.
In a Facebook chat with a friend days before his death, he wrote: “Man words can’t really describe. I’m not dead but I wouldn’t describe myself as ok. The sad thing is this place (Uber) has broken me to the point where I don’t have the strength to look for another job.”
His wife Zecole Thomas opened up about having to watch her husband’s demise.
“It’s hard to explain, but he wasn’t himself at all,” she told The Chronicle.
“He’d say things like, ‘My boss doesn’t like me.’ 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.”
Last August, Zecole came home and found Joseph in his car after he shot himself—two days later he died in the hospital.
Since then, Zecole has filed a workers’ compensation claim against Uber.
According to Joseph’s lawyers, he may have also been victim to racism in the mostly white workplace: Uber employs only a handful of black people in technical jobs, African-Americans account for 1 percent of its tech workers and none of its tech leaders, the newspaper noted.
Uber has declined to comment on the allegations, but did tell the newspaper that Joseph never filed any racial discrimination complaints with Human Resources. They also sent their condolences.
“No family should go through the unspeakable heartbreak the Thomas family has experienced,” said Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend. “Our prayers and thoughts are with them.”
But Joseph’s father doesn’t want to hear any of that.
“If you put a hard-driving person on unrealistic tasks, it puts them in failure mode,” said Joe Thomas Sr, who said his son described a sort of brainwashing at Uber. “It makes them burn themselves out; like driving a Lamborghini in first gear.”
For Zecole, she is just trying to rebuild her life and her children’s.
“I’m trying to rebuild my life and generate enough income to provide for my two children,” she said. “I just don’t understand it. He was young, successful, smart; he had everything going for himself. I never in my life thought I would be without him. It’s devastating.”