One of the most loved and hated American companies right now is Uber. The company behind the app-based ride-sharing platform of the same name is disrupting traditional taxi services in major cities across the country, including Philadelphia.
The ride-sharing model Uber offers is attractive to many because it is usually much cheaper than hiring a licensed taxi service. But local and state governments are more than a little concerned about questions of car accident liability and insurance coverage – issues which Uber is trying to downplay as much as possible. Unfortunately, ride-sharing services like Uber also have another major downside: The threat of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
There have been dozens or even hundreds of stories told in news articles and online about women fearing for their own safety or worse. Some male Uber drivers allegedly take the opportunity to hit on or proposition the women they transport. These interactions are made even worse by the fact that if an Uber driver gives you a ride home, he obviously knows where you live. There have been allegations of behavior that goes beyond harassment into full-fledged sexual assault.
Recently, Uber was sued by the mother of a 13-year-old girl in Virginia. In the lawsuit, she claims that an Uber driver molested her daughter after being verbally inappropriate during previous trips.
According to news sources, the 13-year-old girl used Uber as a way to get home from middle school. Between 10 and 20 of these trips were made by the same Uber driver. He allegedly asked the girl inappropriate questions including when her mother was and was not supposed to be home. He also allegedly asked if he could buy her a pair of panties for her birthday.
The girl gave the driver a low rating, hoping that he would not be allowed to drive her again. Unfortunately, he kept getting the offer from Uber and he kept taking it. In the final incident last November, the driver allegedly “reached backward between the seats and rubbed [the girl’s] inner thigh and asked if her mother was home.”
It’s unclear if the driver had previous sex offenses on his criminal record. But he had been hired by Uber despite having numerous driving-related offenses on his record, including DUI and reckless driving. This alone suggests that there are problems with Uber’s hiring and screening processes.
Ride-sharing services may offer cheaper fares than regular taxis, but the true costs could actually be a lot higher. Please be cautious whenever using Uber or any similar service.