Sexual Harassment in Uber & Lyft
Written by John Winer
March 14, 2019
The ease and reliability of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft has transformed transportation across the country, especially for young adults who tend to use the app-based service on weekends to prevent driving while intoxicated. While reducing DUIs is important for public safety, there are growing concerns about the safety risks for intoxicated individuals sitting in the back seat of a stranger’s car. We’ve heard the numerous horror stories in the news where women have come forward to report they have been sexually harassed or even kidnapped while riding home. Now, the question many consumers are pondering is how safe are these services?
According to the Star-Telegram, one in four women who rode in an Uber vehicle had an uncomfortable encounter with the driver. They also reported having experienced unprofessional behavior from drivers, such as receiving texts from the drivers after a drop off, as well as being flirted with while in the car. Just recently, the NY Post reported on an Uber driver that was accused of kidnapping and groping a woman while she slept in the back of his car. Not only did he sexually harass her, but he charged her more than $1,000 for a ride to a location she never took. Not only do passengers experience sexual harassment, but female drivers have reported incidents as well. According to The Guardian, a female driver was driving two men back to their hotel from the bar, when they started sexually harassing and groping her causing extreme emotional and physical distress. When she reported the incident to Uber, she claims they did nothing to protect her.
According to a CNN report, at least 103 Uber drivers in the past four years have been accused of sexually abusing or assaulting passengers, and 31 drivers have been convicted for crimes. But taking them to court is not so simple. Uber tried to force women who were sexually assaulted by drivers to resolve their claims through arbitration, a move that silences victims and protects the company from public scrutiny. Last year, Uber ditched forced arbitration for these types of cases allowing individuals to take their claims to court. Shortly after Uber announced the end of its forced arbitration policy for individual claims by Uber drivers, riders or employees, Lyft did the same. This means anyone who alleges sexual misconduct at the hands of Lyft drivers, riders or employees won’t have to argue their case behind closed doors.
Lyft also faces allegations its drivers have assaulted or raped passengers. According to CNET, 18 Lyft drivers have been accused of sexual misconduct. One lawsuit filed by a San Antonio woman alleges Lyft disregarded her safety, alleging she was sexually assaulted by one of its drivers during a ride home. Lyft has said the driver’s account was deactivated once it learned of the sexual assault complaint. In a different lawsuit against Lyft, described in a report by the San Diego Union Tribune, a local woman alleged a driver followed her into her home and groped her against her will. As with other lawsuits, the victim alleged Lyft did not do enough to protect her from harm committed by her driver. In a case reported by the Los Angeles Times, a woman from Los Angeles alleged that a Lyft driver assaulted her while she was asleep in his car and then took her to a motel and raped her.
These incidents are alarming and leave many consumers wondering what these ride-sharing companies are doing to protect their passengers. Uber now provides photos of drivers, a two-way rating system and a 24/7 response line. The app will also indicate the type of car that’s being driven, the license plate number and the driver’s name. Another safety feature Uber and Lyft have is an option on the apps that allows passengers to share their ride status with someone to let them know when they arrive to their destination. When getting into a vehicle, make sure to ask for their name, to make sure it’s your driver. Never say your name first, let the driver ask for your name. There have been cases where there are people who pretend to be a driver waiting to pick up their passenger, but they turn out to be a complete stranger. Always make sure the Uber or Lyft sticker is on the car window and if possible, ride with a friend or someone you feel comfortable with.