- Free Consultations / No Fees Until We Win
- (213) 927-3700
Personal Injury Firm
Uber Technologies Inc appealed a $59 million fine set by a California regulator after a dispute over whether the company should share detailed information on sexual assault and harassment claims reported on its ride-hailing platform.
Back in December, The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) fined Uber and threatened to suspend their license to operate in the state after the company refused to share the information, including full names and contact information, arguing that doing so would violate victims’ rights to privacy. The CPUC had ruled that Uber had 30 days until January 2021 to comply.
As reported by Reuters, an anti-sexual abuse group also appealed the decision and supported Uber’s “transparency and commitment to protecting survivors.” In its appeal to the CPUC’s order, the advocacy group RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) reportedly wrote in a public filing: “Companies should be commended, not penalized, for their transparency and commitment to protecting survivors.”
The publication also reported that Uber’s Chief Legal Officer Tony West said during an interview that no regulator had previously asked Uber for personally identifiable information of sexual assault victims, and said the CPUC had not disclosed why it needed the data. “While it may be well intentioned, (contacting those individuals) can lead to the retraumatization of survivors,” West reportedly said, adding that Uber had repeatedly offered to resolve the dispute outside litigation.
However, a CPUC administrative judge said in the December order that privacy concerns could be addressed by replacing the victims’ names with a code to allow commission staff to conduct follow-up investigations. They upheld the $59 million fine against the company.
The order came a year after the ridesharing company released a safety report on the prevalence of sexual assault on its app, which disclosed there had been roughly 6,000 cases of reported sexual assault between 2017 and 2018. Of the 3,045 reported sexual assault cases in 2018 (up from 2,936 in 2017), Uber reportedly said 235 were rapes and the remainder were varying levels of assault. A vast majority involved unwanted kissing or groping.
Having regulatory authority over transportation companies in the state and regularly investigates complaints against them, the CPUC reportedly had wanted to know more shortly after the safety report was released, especially because Uber admitted in the fine print that the report did not “assess or take any position on whether any of the reported incidents actually occurred.” This is why the agency asked Uber some questions about who authored the report, and also asked the company for specific details on each incident of assault, but Uber never answered them.
Originally, the safety report aimed at ensuring drivers and the public that Uber was serious about safety, but instead put the company in the spotlight. Lyft Inc, for its part, has promised a similar report, but has yet to release it.