On Tuesday, two anonymous women filed a lawsuit against Uber on behalf of individuals who have experienced “rape, sexual assault, physical violence, and gender-motivated harassment” by Uber drivers. The lawsuit states that both women were sexually assaulted by their Uber drivers, and accuses Uber of creating a system that fails at both preventing and handling these incidents of sexual violence.
It’s not news that Uber has a sexual harassment and assault issue. The company has repeatedly made such headlines since its launch. And just this year, a woman sued the company after learning that executives grossly mishandled her rape case. Uber has attempted to publicly boost its reputation through a recent donation to sexual assault and domestic violence prevention programs. It also said it will work to educate its employees, drivers, and passengers on the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence.
But the women who filed the lawsuit, seeking class-action status, believe Uber can do more to prevent and respond to sexual violence by its drivers. In fact, they list a number of actionable points they believe the company should take to help improve safety specifically for women riders, as seen in the court document.
The listed measures are specific and many are actionable, especially for the most valuable startup in the world. They include ways in which Uber can better screen its drivers, like with in-person interviews, character checks, routine criminal background checks, and fingerprint background checks. The latter of which Uber has actively resisted.
The points listed also include preventative safety measures, such as installing both video cameras and GPS tracking systems in all vehicles that will sound an alarm when turned off. The lawsuit also suggests that Uber offer in-app panic buttons in the US, something the company has already offered in India and South Africa. Uber has also installed dashboard cameras in cars in South Africa, following numerous reports of rape in the country.
The lawsuit suggests a few ways in which Uber can better address sexual violence and harassment against women after it has already occurred. The plaintiffs want drivers to be required to report any indictments or charges against them related to sexual misconduct and physical or domestic violence, to Uber within 24 hours. They also call for a dedicated online form for reports pertaining to issues of violence or sexual misconduct as well as a team assembled specifically to deal with these types of complaints.
Reached for comment, Uber said it “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.”
The full list follows.
- Bar registered sex offenders or individuals with assault or rape convictions (no time limit) from becoming Uber drivers;
- Require all Uber drivers nationwide to undergo in-person screening interviews and vehicle examinations;
- Install tamper-proof video cameras in all Uber vehicles which immediately set off alarms if they are disabled or malfunction;
- Perform national criminal background checks of all drivers every six months;
- Voluntarily submit driver information to states that wish to conduct their own screening through state maintained criminal databases, such as in Maryland and Massachusetts;
- Require drivers to inform Uber within 24 hours if they have been indicted or charged on any felony involving physical force, violence or weapons, including kidnapping, or misdemeanours involving physical or sexual conduct;
- Require drivers to inform Uber within 24 hours of physical restraining orders issued in domestic violence matters;
- Utilise Live Scan, a fingerprint-based background check for drivers administered through the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) databases for all current and prospective Uber drivers;
- Perform thorough character checks on prospective drivers that go beyond mere criminal background checks, such as by interacting with people who may personally know an applicant, in order to learn about the person’s reputation and background;
- Make high resolution driver photos available for all consumers nationwide to view on their phones to guard against identity fraud;
- Disable sharing of driver profiles by associating each profile with a particular phone, facial recognition software “fingerprint” and/or fingerprint, verified at the in-person screening interview;
- Engage professional, trained, third-party investigators to perform audits of all current driver employment applications and other required documentation to identify inaccurate, outdated or forged information;
- Require all Uber drivers nationwide to install GPS tracking systems in their cars (rather than simply relying on phones and apps, which can be turned on and off), which immediately trigger alarms if they are deactivated or malfunction;
- Disable child-lock features on passenger doors of Uber vehicles;
- Include in-app panic buttons in the U.S.-based apps that send messages to Uber consumer support, local police, and a designated safety contact to quickly report an escalating safety situation, such as aggressive driving, a possible abduction, or an assault;
- Employ teams of experts dedicated to investigating complaints against Uber drivers of a violent or sexual nature; and
- Create a separate online form to report complaints of a violent or sexual nature against Uber drivers.