Ride-hailing company Uber Technologies, Inc. has been fined $59.09 million by a California judge for stonewalling information regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment claims arising out of Uber’s California transportation network company passenger services.
The judge also warned Uber that its permits to operate as a Transportation Network Company (TNC) and a Charter-party Carrier (TCP) shall be suspended if Uber fails to pay the penalty amount in full and provide the required information within 30 days from the date this decision.
California Public Utility Commission’s (CPUC) Administrative Law Judge Robert Mason passed the ruling in a 92-page document. The CPUC regulates ride-hailing in California. Uber has 30-days to comply with the order or to file an appeal.
In December 2019, an administrative law judge had primarily required Uber to provide data of thousands of sexual assaults during Uber rides from 2017 to 2019 and to provide details of the first safety report released by Uber at that time to the CPUC.
The safety report had revealed that Uber received a total of 5,981 reports of sexual assault incidents during its ride-hailing trips in the U.S. in 2017 and 2018. This includes 464 reports of rape incidents in the period. At the same time, 99.9 percent of Uber trips went without any safety-related issue.
According to data provided by Uber, the company received a total of 2,936 reports of sexual assault incidents in 2017, and the figure rose to 3,045 reports in 2018. The number of rape incidents, the most serious category of sexual assault, was 235 in 2018, up from 229 in 2017.
However, the CPUC wanted further information on how the report was compiled, and also required specific details on the assaults so that they could be investigated by the state. It requested for the date, time and location of each reported assault as well as the circumstances of the incidents and the contact information of all involved in the incidents.
However, Uber had refused to comply with the order, saying it would infringe on victims’ privacy if it passes the data to state regulators.
Uber has launched several safety features in the past two years, in response to criticism of personal safety issues.
These include an in-app emergency button that connects riders and drivers directly to 911 with the simple press of a button, and Ridecheck – a tool that can detect rare events such as unexpected long stops on a trip or possible vehicle crashes.
Uber data also shows that drivers are also victims and reported assaults at roughly the same rate as riders across the five most serious categories of sexual assault. Riders account for 45 percent of the accused parties. Meanwhile, media coverage of the issue of sexual assault related to the company has almost entirely portrayed drivers as the alleged offenders.
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