Uber has become a known name around the world for ride sharing and being at the top often comes with problems that need to be resolved. When they’re left somewhat ignored, regulators feel the pressure to step in and take action to protect the public from coming to harm. In this case, the public leans more towards women.
Uber is trying to protect its own safety by refusing to hand over information requested by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regarding cases of harassment and sexual assault perpetrated on customers while providing service to them. The company is hiding behind the claim that it is protecting the privacy of victims. Uber claims the issue is that the state is seeking the names and contact information of Uber riders who reported being personally violated without providing consent to release their information.
Uber now has until early January to provide the data without identifying specific victims and is required to pay a $59 million fine for refusing to provide it earlier. Should they fail to pay, the CPUC has taken the position that the company should be barred from continuing to operate in California. Approximately 6,000 reports were made by riders in 2017-2018 claiming to have been sexually assaulted, harassed, or raped by Uber drivers across the country. More than 20 percent occurred in California.
Is Lyft safer than Uber?
Lyft, as it turns out, is really not doing any better than Uber when it comes to protecting women from becoming prey for sexually violent predators. The depravity of some of these planned attacks has been horrific. A teenager who was raped was also forced to take the morning after pill to prevent pregnancy and hide the evidence, which only adds to the trauma of the experience.
Other victims have endured:
- Groping by their drivers
- Being raped inside their homes by their drivers
- Being raped inside the Lyft vehicle without using a condom, placing the woman at risk for STDs or pregnancy
Hundreds of women have come forward to join a class action lawsuit against the company to begin next year, which seems largely because the company prefers to hire quantity over quality drivers. Lyft repeatedly fails to properly screen potential drivers and instead gives them the keys to the kingdom.
To be hired, drivers simply fill out an online form without traditional vetting such as:
- Being interviewed
- Requiring fingerprints be taken
- Conducting a routine background check
Despite the safety features built into Lyft’s app. the company has regularly refused to cooperate with law enforcement when it comes to reports of sexual assaults on passengers.
COVID-19 may be putting more riders at risk
People are desperate for money since businesses have shut down or hours have been cut back. That means an influx of individuals looking for flexible work that offers quick cash. Waiting tables used to be the go-to in this situation but the pandemic has put a crimp in that employment option.
Additionally, Uber and Lyft just implemented new benefits for their California drivers under Prop 22, which includes a health insurance stipend and guaranteed minimum wages while leaving their employment status as independent contractors. This makes becoming a rideshare driver more attractive, especially to those looking for victims and they’ll be paid almost $17 an hour for the opportunity.
Riders can help protect themselves from would-be attackers by:
- Carrying pepper spray and keeping it handy while in the vehicle. It may catch the driver off guard just long enough to escape the vehicle during an attack.
- Using rideshare services that only employ female drivers. There is never a guarantee that a woman can’t attack another woman, however the risk is much lower.
- Taking a photo of the driver and text it to a friend along with your Uber or Lyft information to provide law enforcement if you don’t contact them within a pre-determined time frame.
- Stay on the phone with a friend during your ride and use a safe word if you feel in danger. Your friend will know to contact the police for you.
You have a right to feel secure while paying for a ride. Companies like Uber and Lyft have an obligation to make sure they are hiring drivers who will get you from one point to another without fearing you’ll be raped. When companies put profits over your physical safety, you deserve to hold them accountable for the physical, mental, and emotional harm you have suffered as a result.
The Los Angeles sexual abuse and assault attorneys at Taylor & Ring understand how difficult it is to have your trust destroyed when you are at your most vulnerable. Let us help you show ride share companies that you won’t remain a victim by filing a civil suit for your damages. To schedule your free confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, call us at 310-776-6390, or we welcome you to reach out to us through our contact form.