A new report reveals that Uber’s internal investigation team that handles customer complaints of crimes like sexual assault and rape is “forbidden” from reporting allegations against drivers to authorities.
The Washington Post reports that Uber uses a three-strike system for its drivers and won’t remove them as a driver from the platform unless they get three strikes for “bad behavior.” Even still, when a driver is kicked off the platform, Uber doesn’t necessarily let local authorities, other rideshare companies, or background check firms know the driver’s behavior that provoked their removal.
The agents are forbidden by Uber from routing allegations to police or from advising victims to seek legal counsel or make their own police reports, even when they get confessions of felonies, said Lilli Flores, a former investigator in Phoenix — a guideline corroborated in interviews with investigators, alleged victims and plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The Post report also says an Uber executive overruled an investigator trying to remove an Uber driver in New York who allegedly had three separate complaints of sexual advances toward passengers against him. The driver in question continued driving for Uber until a fourth complaint was made by a passenger who said the driver raped her.
According to Uber’s Law Enforcement Guidelines, under Emergency and Exigent requests, Uber says: “We require a description of the nature of the emergency or urgency, including details about the nature of the alleged actual or threatened physical harm or exigency, and we review these requests on a case-by-case basis. We may provide responsive information when we have a good faith belief that doing so may protect riders, driver-partners, others, Uber, or otherwise assist with an exigent investigation.”
Uber’s guidelines go on to say: “Once the emergency or exigency has passed, we require law enforcement to follow up with the appropriate legal process and we may require law enforcement to obtain appropriate legal process for any initial or additional disclosure.”
Digital Trends reached out to Uber to comment on the allegations regarding the investigations team and Uber told us that they were proud of the team’s work.
“We’ve made substantial investments in both the SIU team and in our safety technology, policies and processes. We are very proud of this team’s work and know they approach their jobs with tremendous compassion and understanding. Characterizing this team as anything but providing support to people after a difficult experience is just wrong. We will continue to put safety at the heart of everything we do and implement new approaches, based on expert guidance, to the benefit of both our customers and employees,” an Uber spokesperson told Digital Trends.
Uber also added that they continually enhance the team by hiring experienced specialists from diverse backgrounds such as social services, crisis management and law enforcement.
Ridesharing companies’ handling of passengers’ safety has come into question as more allegedvictims are coming forward to share their experiences of sexual assault. Earlier this month, 14 women filed a lawsuit against Uber’s competitor, Lyft. The women allege that the company doesn’t do enough to protect female passengers and has failed to cooperate with law enforcement.
According to 2018 data from CNN covering a four-year period, 18 Lyft drivers in the U.S. faced accusations of sexual assault, with four drivers having been convicted. Uber saw 103 of its U.S.-based drivers accused of sexual assault during the same time frame, with 31 convicted.
Attorney Stephen Estey, who is representing the group of women suing Lyft, said in a press conference on September 4 it’s possible that at some point, they will file a lawsuit against Uber for sexual assault cases as well.
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