Future Tense

Uber Sued by Two Women Who Say They Were Sexually Assaulted by Drivers

Uber has long been under fire for its background check methods.

AARON TAM/AFP/Getty Images

Two anonymous women filed a complaint against Uber in a Northern California district court on Tuesday, with hopes of attaining class-action status on behalf of customers in the U.S. who were “subject to rape, sexual assault, physical violence or gender-motivated violence or harassment by their Uber driver in the last four years.”

The women are requesting damages for their own alleged assaults along with an injunction against the company that would require it to conduct more rigorous background checks on its drivers and change other company practices.

(Slate has reached out to Uber requesting comment on the complaint. We will update this post if we receive a response.)

The plaintiffs argue that Uber misrepresented the safety of its service and that the company’s current method of allegedly using credit-reporting systems to screen drivers is inadequate because it only goes back seven years. The complaint also claims this supposed negligence creates a dangerous environment for customers who are often intoxicated and vulnerable when they use the service. Jeanne M. Christensen, attorney for the two women, released the following statement:

“As alleged in the complaint filed today against Uber, the Company must come forward with information about how many reports it has received about rapes, sexual assaults and gender-motivated harassment to allow consumers to assess whether Uber really does provide safe rides, especially to women. Uber must make drastic changes to prevent another female rider from harm. As alleged, the recent #MeToo campaign has exposed the heinous acts that female riders have been forced to endure during Uber rides. It is time for Uber to ‘Do the right thing. Period.’ ”

Uber, along with Lyft, in fact left Austin in 2015 after the city council approved an ordinance that required the companies to use fingerprint-based background checks for their drivers. The companies argued that fingerprint databases can be outdated and that the process would slow the hiring process. Uber and Lyft returned to the city this May after the Texas Legislature passed a bill that, in part, allowed the rideshare titans to avoid collecting drivers’ fingerprints.

Uber’s approach to employment screening has raised the ire of cities beyond Austin. The company was banned from New Delhi in 2014 after a driver allegedly raped one of his passengers. Officials in London also revoked the company’s license in 2017 over similar concerns, though Uber is still allowed to operate in the city while the decision is under appeal.