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Uber Technologies Inc. reportedly finally reached a preliminary agreement with a California regulator for sharing data on sexual assault and harassment claims on its platform, avoiding a $59 million fine.
Back in Dec., the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) fined Uber after it refused to share victims’ detailed information, including full names and contact information, arguing that doing so would violate their right to privacy. Under the current proposal outlined in a regulatory filing with the CPUC, the penalty would be reduced to $150,000. However, Uber would pay $9 million to support a state victims’ fund and help create industry-wide safety and reporting standards.
The dispute resulted after Uber released its a safety report in Dec. 2019, which disclosed 6,000 reports of sexual assault related to 2.3 billion trips in the U.S. in 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.
Reportedly aimed at ensuring drivers and the public that Uber was serious about safety, the report raised serious concerns and put the company in the spotlight. Rival ride-hailing company Lyft promised a similar report, but said it would await the conclusion of the CPUC procedures before releasing its data.
Proposed by Uber, the agreement proposes a division of the CPUC and an anti-sexual abuse group oversee the company to provide anonymized data on past instances of assault to the agency. Going forward, Uber will also provide anonymized data, but offer individuals the ability to opt in to being contacted by the CPUC when they report a claim. All ride-hail companies operating in California, including Lyft, would have to comply with those future data requests.
However, the agreement is subject to approval by an administrative judge and the full commission.
Recently, a Bay Area law firm representing dozens of women suing Uber over alleged sexual attacks by its drivers in multiple U.S. states submitted a court petition to group more than 80 cases into a single legal action. The dozens of lawsuits claim the company knew as early as 2014 that its drivers were raping and sexually assaulting female passengers. “In the seven years since, sexual predators driving for Uber have continued to sexually assault, harass, kidnap, physically assault, and/or rape Uber’s passengers,” the suits filed in San Francisco Superior Court and other California state courts reportedly allege. “Uber has failed to implement basic safety measures necessary to prevent these serious sexual assaults, which continue to this day.”
Of the suits, 14 incidents allegedly took place just after late 2019 when Uber issued its safety report, in which the company concluded with an assertion that in response it had “launched more safety features than ever before.” The most recent alleged incident occurred Apr. 30 in San Diego. “We’re still getting cases where somebody will say, ‘This happened last night,’” the attorney reportedly said. In total, 200 or so additional women are expected to join the legal action — with more than 100 alleging they were attacked by Uber drivers after the report was issued.