Ride-sharing app Uber has come under fire after more than 500 women filed a lawsuit last week, alleging they were sexually assaulted by drivers. In a complaint filed by San Francisco-based law firm Slater Slater Schulman LLP on Thursday, the women said they were “kidnapped, falsely imprisoned, stalked, harassed and raped,” among other incidents, by drivers contracted by Uber. According to Bloomberg News, the lawsuit also claims Uber was aware since 2014 of the severity of the reported incidents of misconduct by some of the drivers on their platform.
“While the company has acknowledged this crisis of sexual assault in recent years, its actual response has been slow and inadequate, with horrific consequences,” Slater Slater Schulman partner Adam Slater told Bloomberg. He added that more could’ve been done to address the issue.
“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.”
While Uber claims less than 20 cases have been filed, the firm said roughly 550 clients have claims against Uber and it is actively investigating about 150 others.
The lawsuit comes about two weeks after Uber released its own second safety report. According to that report, the company received up to 3,824 reports of the most severe categories of sexual assault from rideshares in the U.S. between 2019 and 2020. The reports ranged from “non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part” to “non-consensual sexual penetration,” or rape. Of those 3,824 reports, 141 were rape reports in 2020.
While these statistics are beyond alarming, the safety report also noted a 38% decrease from its initial report, which covered 2017 and 2018, claiming this decrease was due to enhanced safety measures. But many believe the decline is related to declines in app usage during the pandemic.
The news also follows backlash the company received after former Uber employee Mark MacGann leaked the “Uber Files” last week, which contained 124,000 internal documents that revealed the company’s mishandling of misconduct.
“I was the one talking to governments, I was the one pushing this with the media, I was the one telling people that they should change the rules because drivers were going to benefit and people were going to get so much economic opportunity,” MacGann told The Guardian, who he leaked the documents to.
According to Forbes, Uber is valued at a $42.36 billion market cap. In 2018 the company said it introduced new technology to monitor its drivers for new criminal offenses and background checks, resulting in 80,000 drivers being removed from the app to date.
After backlash and stories regarding the lawsuit, an Uber spokesperson sent the following statement to NBC News:
“Sexual assault is a horrific crime and we take every single report seriously. 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. While we can’t comment on pending litigation, we will continue to keep safety at the heart of our work.”
It is not your fault if someone touches you in a way that’s not okay, or shows you something that makes you feel you are not safe. If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual harassment or assault, resources are available 24/7 at the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.