Lawsuit: Some female Uber passengers have 'endured rape, physical violence' from drivers

Gladys Abbott
November 16, 2017

Uber must make drastic changes to prevent another female rider from harm.

Two women filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against Uber on Tuesday in a San Francisco federal court alleging that they had been sexually assaulted by their Uber drivers. The lawsuit also argues that the ride-sharing company misrepresents the safety of being an Uber passenger in general. "These allegations are important to us and we take them very seriously", the ride-hailing firm said in a statement.

"Uber has done everything possible to continue using low-priced, woefully inadequate background checks on drivers and has failed to monitor drivers for any violent or inappropriate conduct after they are hired", the lawsuit reads.

USA Today reported that the women are alleging that Uber's lax screening of its drivers has subjected thousands of female passengers to a range of sexual harassment or sex assault. 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 NY on October 31; the debate over whether Uber drivers are employees of Uber; and misleading advertising from Uber about "safe rides".

Uber has yet to comment on the lawsuit.

Lawsuit: Some female Uber passengers have 'endured rape, physical violence' from drivers

It seeks safety measures including driver background checks using fingerprints and a panic button for the Uber app that alerts the company and police.

The suit further alleged that as a way of protecting itself from requirements that a transportation company would be required to fulfill, Uber instead has called itself a technology platform thus giving it the ability to avoid regulations that govern drivers for limousine or taxi companies. "Uber has created a system for bad actors to gain access to vulnerable victims". The plaintiffs insisted that these issues are affecting legitimate drivers, not the "rogue" ones. "Specifically drivers have the means and opportunity to veer off route without detection, trap passengers inside their vehicles and commit physical and sexual violence without witnesses".

Earlier this month, Uber pledged $5 million during the next five years to fund sexual assault prevention groups as well as train its own employees.

And it recounts a handful of sexual assaults involving Uber drivers among several hundred that have been described in news reports in recent years. The Uber driver was charged with "Rape by use of drugs".

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