A Texas resident who was raped by an Uber driver in India is suing the ride-sharing company and three of its former and current executives after revelations that they had obtained and mishandled her medical records.
Identified in court records and by The New York Times only as Jane Doe, a Texas resident living in New Delhi at the time of the incident, filed a suit against Uber and its chief executive, Travis Kalanick, as well as two former executives, Emil Michael and Eric Alexander. Doe alleges intrusion into her private affairs as well as public disclosure of private information and defamation.
According to the filing, Doe believes the executives misconstrued her case and posited it as having possibly been orchestrated by a rival taxi company or ride-sharing service.
“Rape denial is just another form of the toxic gender discrimination that is endemic at Uber and is ingrained in its culture,” said Doe’s lawyer, Douglas Wigdor.
Wigdor filed the suit in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California.
Uber has previously come under fire from its own employees. A lengthy blog post put up by a female employee who left the company after being subject to repeated instances of sexual harassment went viral, launching an internal investigation which uncovered evidence of widespread misogyny and unprofessional behavior among Uber’s elite.
The lawsuit culminated in a restructuring of Uber’s management, with several top executives being fired by the business’s governing board. Chief executive Travis Kalanick will also be taking an indefinite leave of absence from the company.
“Hopefully, this lawsuit coupled with the change recommended by the independent counsel will create real change and reform at Uber and elsewhere,” said Wigdor.
In response to Jane Doe’s allegations of a cover-up and conspiracy to taint her story, an Uber spokesman said on Thursday, “No one should have to go through a horrific experience like this, and we’re truly sorry she’s had to relive it over the last few weeks.”
None of the executives named in the lawsuit responded to a NYT request for comment.
The paper recounts how the latest legal move comes two years after Jane Doe was sexually assaulted by an Uber driver in the Indian capital of New Delhi. Her request for a ride was accepted by Shiv Kumar Yadav, who had registered a vehicle with Uber.
Sometime after the ride began, Yadav switched off his cell phone – to disable his GPS – and diverted from a recommended course to assault and rape his passenger.
Yadav had been suspected and prosecuted for rape in another case from 2011, but was acquitted and quickly fell off grid before resurfacing as an Uber driver.
A fast-track court in New Delhi found Yadav guilty of kidnapping and sexual assault, sentencing him to life in prison.
At some point during the court proceedings, private investigators hired by Uber were able to obtain Jane Doe’s medical records.
The records were purportedly brought by Uber executives, who discussed and disseminated within the company a theory that the rape ‘could be ties to its competitors’ in India, as part of a plan to sabotage the company’s burgeoning success in South Asia.
“Only by discrediting Jane Doe’s account of what happened, including her medical records about the rape, could Kalanick, Alexander and Michael have contrived such an irrational and fictitious story about a rival ride-sharing company being involved in her rape account,” read the lawsuit.