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Uber Faces Lawsuit From More Than 500 Women Claiming Drivers Kidnapped, Raped, Or Otherwise Assaulted Them

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NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 8: After dropping off passengers at a Broadway play, Johan Nijman, a for-hire driver who runs his own service and also drives for Uber on the side, drives through the West Side of Manhattan on Wednesday evening, August 8, 2018 in New York City. On Wednesday, New York City became the first American city to halt new vehicles for ride-hail services. The legislation passed by the New York City Council will cap the number of for-hire vehicles for one year while the city studies the industry. The move marks a setback for Uber in its largest U.S. market. Nijman, a member of the Independent Drivers Guild who has been driving in various capacities since 1991, says the temporary vehicle cap is a good start but he would like to see the city do more to deal with the over-saturation of vehicles and new drivers.
Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Ride share company Uber is facing civil action from hundreds of women claiming that drivers sexually assaulted them with various degrees of severity.

According to a Wednesday press release from law firm Slater Slater Schulman, female passengers across multiple states have been “kidnapped, sexually assaulted, sexually battered, raped, falsely imprisoned, stalked, harassed, or otherwise attacked by Uber drivers.” The firm represents roughly 550 clients in the lawsuit.

“Uber’s whole business model is predicated on giving people a safe ride home, but rider safety was never their concern — growth was, at the expense of their passengers’ safety,” Adam Slater, founding partner of Slater Slater Schulman, said in the press release. “While the company has acknowledged this crisis of sexual assault in recent years, its actual response has been slow and inadequate, with horrific consequences.”

According to Uber’s website, new drivers must complete background checks, while current drivers are vetted annually. The company received more than 3,800 safety reports “across the five most severe categories of sexual assault and misconduct” in 2019 and 2020. Uber and competing platform Lyft announced a partnership in March 2021 to create a joint database for drivers accused of sexual assault and other crimes — a move meant to stop drivers from switching between companies following bans over inappropriate behavior.

The law firm claimed that Uber “became aware” of drivers sexually assaulting and raping female passengers as early as 2014, but overlooked typical background check standards in the interest of more quickly onboarding new drivers. The firm listed several alleged examples of sexual assault carried out by Uber drivers — including a February 2022 attempted rape in Chino Hills, California; a November 2021 rape in Perris, California; and an October 2021 attempted rape outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“There is so much more that Uber can be doing to protect riders: adding cameras to deter assaults, performing more robust background checks on drivers, creating a warning system when drivers don’t stay on a path to a destination,” Slater continued. “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.”

An Uber spokesperson told Fortune that the company seeks to prioritize passenger safety and takes seriously “every single report” of sexual assault.

“There is nothing more important than safety, which is why Uber has built new safety features, established survivor-centric policies, and been more transparent about serious incidents,” the spokesperson said. “While we can’t comment on pending litigation, we will continue to keep safety at the heart of our work.”

Beyond the sexual misconduct lawsuit, Uber is facing legal battles in California over alleged anticompetitive practices that impact gig economy workers. Uber and Lyft “label their drivers independent contractors, yet deprive those drivers of economic independence by fixing the prices that drivers must charge to customers for rides,” according to a suit filed by legal nonprofit Towards Justice, which argued that the drivers would have increased earnings under a regime with more pricing freedom.

Two years ago, a California court ruled in favor of Uber and Lyft in a lawsuit that would have pressed the firms to classify independent contractors as employees.

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