Hundreds of women have joined together to file a lawsuit against ride-share app Uber, alleging they were sexually assaulted by the company’s drivers. The lawsuit is yet another setback for Uber, as its corporate practices and culture have come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, attorneys at Slater Slater Schulman LLP filed the complaint in the San Francisco County Superior Court against Uber. The lawsuit alleges that the women were “kidnapped, sexually assaulted, sexually battered, raped, falsely imprisoned, stalked, harassed, or otherwise attacked by Uber drivers.”
The lawyers representing the women accused Uber of neglecting passenger safety and maintaining practices that they say protect drivers with histories of violence or sexual assault. Among them are Uber’s refusal to institute fingerprint checks for criminal histories, a “three strikes rule” that they allege protects predatory drivers” and a refusal to install car cameras to watch for bad behavior.
“There is so much more that Uber can be doing to protect riders,” said Adam Slater, a founding partner of Slater Slater Schulman. “But the company refuses to, and that’s why my firm has 550 clients with claims against Uber and we’re investigating at least 150 more. Acknowledging the problem through safety reports is not enough. It is well past time for Uber to take concrete actions to protect its customers.”
According to the company’s website, Uber subjects drivers to a background investigation performed by a third-party company. The drivers are checked for valid U.S. driver’s licenses, years of experience driving, and a criminal background check to disqualify potential hires with violent histories. However, Uber has refused to submit its drivers to fingerprint checks with the FBI with the company arguing that these databases are faulty or outdated.
The complaint comes days after the company released its second safety report, covering 2019 to 2020, showing 3,824 Uber drivers and riders reported sexual assaults, down 38% from the previous report, which covered 2017 and 2018.
In a statement, a Uber spokesperson called sexual assault a “horrific crime” and that the company takes seriously reports against their drivers. The company declined to comment on the specific lawsuit, but insisted that they “keep safety at the heart of [Uber’s] work.”
The lawsuit follows an expose by an international consortium of journalists that cataloged Uber’s aggressive business tactics, which included moves to thwart authorities who investigate its practices.
Among them was evidence that Uber included a “kill-switch” to thwart investigators looking into its practices around the world. In India, it was found that Uber flouted local regulations that required its cabs to include a “panic button” by not including one or the button itself proved dysfunctional.