Uber handed class-action lawsuit from riders alleging sexual assault

A man arrives at the Uber offices in Queens, New York, U.S., Feb. 2, 2017. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Uber has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit from riders who say they were assaulted or harassed by the company’s drivers.

The lawsuit was filed in the District of Northern California Tuesday, by two unidentified women.

“Since Uber launched in 2010, thousands of female passengers have endured unlawful conduct by their Uber drivers including rape, sexual assault, physical violence and gender-motivated harassment,” the lawsuit reads.

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It goes on to say that Uber has failed to address the assault allegations by enforcing stricter regulations on drivers, but instead has prioritized keeping operating costs low for the company.

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One of the lawsuit’s primary complaints is that Uber fails to do adequate background checks on drivers. The document reads that many U.S. states have strict monitoring of taxi drivers, and some even require cameras in vehicles, but Uber does not have comparable regulations.

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Uber regulations differ for Canadian cities. In Toronto for example, drivers must have a Private Transportation Company (PTC) license from the city, they must also undergo a renewed background check each year of criminal history and driving records.

This isn’t the first time Uber has received criticism that its background checks are too lax. Earlier in November, Uber revealed that a terror suspect who drove into a bike path in New York passed a background check just months before the incident.

Sayfullo Saipov had been driving with the company for more than six months.

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The California lawsuit also notes that this issue of assault is no longer about a “rogue” driver who failed to follow rules, but is a widespread issue.

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Uber has been criticized for poorly handling sexual assault and harassment allegations — both within its corporate departments and by drivers — several times in the past years.

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Alleged incidents have occurred in many countries where Uber operates, and have resulted in several high-level employees departing from the company. In June, CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from Uber, following criticism that he helped foster a culture of sexism and bullying at the company.

In July this year, a 33-year-old Uber driver from Toronto was charged with sexual assault.

A spokeswoman from Uber told Global News in an email statement at the time that the driver was “permanently removed” from the company.

— With a file from The Associated Press

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