After the shocking suicide of a 33-year-old computer engineer for Uber, his wife and others have begun questioning if the tough work environment played a role in his death. Last April, Joseph Thomas started working for Uber. Only five months later, he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, leaving behind his wife and two sons — Joseph, 9, and Ezekiel, 7.
Based on the mysterious events that led up to Thomas’s death, his wife, Zecole Thomas, filed a lawsuit against the company.
“Uber’s culture was different,” Zecole Thomas told USA TODAY. “Here was a man who was very good at what he did, who took care of his family. But within months, he started to tell me that he ruined our life. That he was broken.”
Zecole said that she accompanied him to see a therapist when she noticed his attitude shift. When the therapist advised him to leave Uber, Thomas replied, “’I cannot do it, I cannot think,’ said Zecole.
In response to Thomas’s death, Uber released a statement which read, “No family should go through the unspeakable heartbreak the Thomas family has experienced.”
Part of the reason for Zecole’s suit is to see if courts will grant an exemption and allow the family to access $720,000 in workman’s compensation. This would have automatically been given to the family had he remained at his job for six months
“The way many of these companies work is they want you to love your job more than your families, with breakfast, lunch and dinner and places to sleep at work,” Zecole says. “But people in IT want to have families, too.”
Zecole also described the differences between her husband’s job at Uber and his previous work. She said at his previous job at LinkedIn, she would often join him for lunch. When she asked to do the same at Uber, she was given a cold response.
“At Uber, when I asked to do that, Joe said, ‘No, don’t come, it’s not that kind of environment,” Zecole told USA Today.
Additionally, Zecole said her husband felt like his credentials and skills were constantly being called into question.
“He would say, ‘I feel stupid, they’re all laughing at me,’ and yet this was a guy who was as hardworking, driven and focused as there ever was,” she said. “He only had one year of college, but if there was a coding language he didn’t know, he’d study hard and three months later get certificates saying he knew them. It’s all very heartbreaking.”
(Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images)