Uber, a popular ride-sharing service that is aggressively attempting to enter the Las Vegas market, has faced its fair share of controversy in the past several years. Much of that controversy stems from the fact that drivers use their own cars, do not have commercial licenses, and may not have insurance policies that will fully cover anyone they injure. However, another issue with the service has been gaining more attention recently—women are facing sexual harassment and being made to feel unsafe by Uber drivers.
Sexual harassment is not a new trend in the transportation-for-hire industry. Taxi drivers are predominantly male, and it’s not uncommon to hear reports of sexual harassment or even assault (although the true number of incidences is not known, as sexual assault in general goes underreported). Many women have embraced the idea of ride-sharing services like Uber because hiring a private driver who is held accountable by Uber’s star rating system seems safer than stepping into the first cab that stops. However, a number of recent complaints about sexual harassment from Uber drivers has highlighted the fact that this safety issue is not unique to taxis.
Writer Olivia Nuzzi recently went into this problem in a feature for The Daily Beast. In the article, Ms. Nuzzi recounted her own experience with an Uber driver who claimed he had seen her earlier in the day and then pulled out his iPad to show her that he had taken a close-up picture of her standing in a popular downtown area several hours previously. Ms. Nuzzi gave the driver a one-star review and hoped to put the alarming incident behind her, but the driver managed to find enough information about her to contact one of her co-workers and ask for help getting his job back (Uber had fired him, reportedly because they had received complaints about him even before Ms. Nuzzi’s one-star review). This highlights another issue with Uber—while drivers are not supposed to receive the full names and contact information of their passengers, they can fairly easily find their passengers’ names within a trip record on the Uber app.
Sexual Harassment Is Not an Isolated Incident for Uber
Advocates for Uber might try to argue that Ms. Nuzzi’s experience was one incident and that other drivers would not make their female passengers feel unsafe. This is far from the only recently reported incident, though. A few recent cases are highlighted below.
- A young woman told LA Weeklythat her Uber driver asked her to sit up front, stroked her face, kept making wrong turns (potentially on purpose to make the trip longer), asked about her boyfriend and previous relationships, and attempted to get her to go to the beach with him.
- A Chicago woman recently filed a lawsuit against Uber, reporting that her driver drove the wrong way, asked her to go out with him, and repeatedly fondled her legs, groin, and breasts. When the plaintiff threatened to call the police, the driver pulled over and begged her not to tell anyone what he had done.
- A Washington DC woman reported that after falling asleep in an Uber driver’s vehicle, she woke up to find the driver fondling her breasts and pulling down her underwear. The driver also locked the car doors and refused to let her out until her phone rang, startling him. The woman filed a complaint, and the driver is now facing sexual assault charges.
Uber Attempts to Avoid Liability for Drivers’ Actions
While sexual harassment and assault is clearly an issue in both the taxi and ride-sharing industry, there is a higher degree of accountability with taxi services—the phone number for a taxi driver’s employer is posted in the taxi cab along with the driver’s full name and ID, so a rider can easily call the employer to file a complaint.
Uber doesn’t have this level of accountability because, as they often remind the media when facing liability issues, they are not in the business of providing transportation—they are in the business of connecting riders with drivers. The drivers are not actually Uber employees, and Uber does not have a readily-available number or form for complaints.
If you have been harassed, assaulted, or otherwise injured by a driver for Uber or another ride-share service, the most direct path to justice may be to file a lawsuit. Work with an attorney who has experience going up against taxi services to give yourself the best possible chance of a successful outcome.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of The Law Office of Andrew Winston. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”-an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state-and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”