Are ride-sharing services a breeding ground for sexual harassment?

Posted in Sexual Harassment on April 2, 2014

The Internet, smart phones and social media have caused many of us to rethink what it means to have an “office” job. Telecommuting allows some workers to do their jobs pretty much anywhere. And those of us who still work in a physical office building often continue to do work and answer emails even when we’re off the clock.

Smart phones have even turned our automobiles into mobile workplaces. San Francisco-based Uber has spread to major cities around the U.S. and around the globe and allows regular drivers to be part-time cabbies. But are these business interactions always safe? One writer for the website “The Daily Beast” recently wrote about her own experience with sexual harassment by an Uber driver.

Olivia Nuzzi wrote that after her Uber driver in New York City arrived at her intended destination, he engaged her in conversation that quickly turned creepy. He even pulled out his iPad, revealing a close-up picture he had somehow taken of her earlier in the day.

She reported the man, and he was apparently fired as a driver. A few days later, the driver contacted her through her work email and also copied her employer on the message. She would later find out that Uber drivers in NYC have access to the first and last names of customers.

It stands to reason that if female customers can be sexually harassed by Uber drivers, female (and male) drivers can be harassed by customers. Although harassment perpetrated by drivers also sometimes occurs in regular taxis, customers have a much easier time reporting the behavior in those situations.

It is also commonly the case that taxi drivers must pass rigorous background checks and other requirements before they are approved to carry passengers. Such requirements are much more lax for ride-share drivers.

In the age of social media and “big data,” privacy and safety are more important than ever. Until or unless ride-sharing companies can solve these privacy/safety issues, anyone fearing sexual harassment (or worse) may want to avoid using such services.

Source: The Daily Beast, “Uber’s Biggest Problem Isn’t Surge Pricing. What If It’s Sexual Harassment by Drivers?” Olivia Nuzzi, March 28, 2014