Uber faces class-action lawsuit over sexual assault by drivers

Uber faces a class-action lawsuit over sexual assault by Uber drivers.
Image: WILL OLIVER/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Uber is facing a class-action lawsuit over sexual assaults by drivers.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California on Tuesday, is on behalf of women passengers who experienced “rape, sexual assault, physical violence or gender-motivated harassment” by Uber drivers. 

Two anonymous plaintiffs who were assaulted by Uber drivers filed the lawsuit. The suit claims that this isn’t a case of “rogue” drivers, but that Uber has created a system that allows for “bad actors to gain access to vulnerable victims.” 

The lawsuit hits Uber months after the company faced a reckoning over the treatment of women in its corporate offices. One executive who was ousted was found to have stolen medical records about a woman who was raped during an Uber ride in India. 

“On notice of the magnitude of the number of passengers who have experienced sexual harassment and gender-based violence, Uber should have made drastic changes to the way that it screens and monitors drivers, as well as advancing safety measures on its app and in vehicles, and disclosed the truth to consumers about its insurance coverage during rides,” the lawsuit says. 

“Instead, over the last seven years, Uber has done everything possible to continue using low-cost, woefully inadequate background checks on drivers and has failed to monitor drivers for any violent or inappropriate conduct after they are hired. Nothing meaningful has been done to make rides safer for passengers—especially women.”

The lawsuit describes all the access Uber provides for drivers to commit sexual assault. Drivers are able to veer off-route, park in remote places, block car doors, and follow passengers into their homes. 

The complaint describes several actions Uber could have taken to prevent assault, including barring registered sex offenders from driving on Uber permanently; requiring in-person screenings for drivers; installing video surveillance in Ubers; performing criminal background checks every six months; requiring drivers to tell Uber within 24 hours if they are indicted or charged with any felony involving violence or issued a restraining order related to domestic violence; and a host of other potential solutions. 

The lawsuit also gets into other controversies facing Uber. The complaint cites accounts of assault by Uber drivers shared as part of the #MeToo movement; failures of background checks, including the registration as an Uber driver of the truck driver in the terrorist attack in New York on Oct. 31; the debate over whether Uber drivers are employees of Uber; and misleading advertising from Uber about “safe rides.” 

“Uber received this complaint today and we are in the process of reviewing it. These allegations are important to us and we take them very seriously,” Uber said in a statement. 

The lawsuit, which describes the details of the assaults faced by the two plaintiffs, seeks damages for plaintiffs and to force Uber to take steps to prevent assault by drivers. 

One plaintiff was assaulted by an Uber driver in Los Angeles after she fell asleep in the backseat. The other was raped by an Uber driver in her apartment in Miami. He was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual battery, and Uber refunded her $9.51 for the ride. 

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Tags: business sexual-assault sharing-economy uber uber-drivers

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