Uber Considering Changes Amid Driver Sexual Assault Allegations
Nine women are suing Uber for fraud, misleading advertising regarding their safety, and assault, battery, and rape. Their case was filed last year and came about after each was the victim of a horrifying experience with an Uber driver. They are demanding the company fix what they see as its “flawed” background check system, according to court documents. The system, they’ve alleged, is designed to quickly approve drivers and does not screen out sex offenders.
What’s more, the company requires all riders to settle disputes, even over sexual assault and rape at the hands of a driver, in private arbitration, and details this in the terms of service. It has filed a motion stating they have no right to fight the case in court. The women have fired back that users downloading the app unwittingly click away their right to file a lawsuit.
“Secret arbitration takes away a woman’s right to a trial by a jury of her peers and provides a dark alley for Uber to hide from the justice system, the media and public scrutiny,” they wrote in response to the motion.
One victim, identified only by her first name, Sophia, has decided to publicly share her story with the hope that Uber will change its policies. Her full statement reads:
Sexual Assault is about a predator stealing a part of you that you will never get back. There is no settlement amount or number of criminal convictions that can replace what has forever been lost. To me, this is the most painful aspect of being a sexual assault survivor. I’ve been given a life-sentence of battling the excruciating psychological effects of being violated; I fight unceasingly against the shame, the loss of feeling safe, and the debilitating anxiety. While I am strong and resilient, while I do not want to victimize myself, I want to be transparent and honest about the reality of surviving trauma, as I do not know how else to protect others.
If Uber had done their due diligence, my devastation could have been avoided. They hired a man whose personal information and picture are the exact match of a registered sex offender; the same man I accurately identified in a photo-lineup. This is the Uber driver who drove me home after a work event, followed me into my apartment building, and assaulted me.
Uber is neglecting to acknowledge the severity and frequency of the sexual assault crimes being committed by asking for arbitration. By the same token, Uber is missing my purpose, and that of many other women, in joining this class-action. This is not for me, this is for every person reading this; for anyone who wants to strive for a world that does not turn a blind eye to acts of sexual violence. It’s too late for me, I am striving for it to not be too late for you.
“The only thing I can really do is help others,” Sophia said. “I think it’s stronger to join others so we can help others not have this happen to them.”
The company responded with a statement of its own: “Sexual assault has no place anywhere and we are committed to doing our part to help end this violence. As we prioritize safety at Uber, we are taking a hard look at these important issues.” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahia also tweeted she would take a closer look at its arbitration policy but has to “take all of our constituents into consideration.”