Uber Hit With a Class Action Lawsuit Over Sexual Assault Claims

Uber is facing a class action lawsuit from US riders alleging assault

The lawsuit also gets into other controversies facing Uber.

The complaint, filed in a USA district court in San Francisco, California, today seeks damages, stricter screening for drivers, insurance coverage for riders, and disclosure of the number of reports Uber has received about rapes, sexual assaults and gender-related harassment.

In a new lawsuit seeking class action status, two women are using the courts to try to force Uber to change its screening policies and implement stricter background checks for its drivers.

As Recode reports, the complaint states that the plaintiffs were misled to believing that Uber drivers would safely take them to their destinations, and that the company engaged in "unlawful" and "fraudulent" conduct to misrepresent the safety of such transport. Los Angeles and San Francisco sued the company a couple of years back, alleging that Uber missed criminal records for drivers with serious crimes in their past.

"Uber made such false representations after failing to screen the drivers in any meaningful way, thereby presenting grave threats to Plaintiffs' safety and well-being", the complaint reads.

The suit accuses Uber of creating "a system for bad actors to gain access to vulnerable victims".

"Over the last seven years, Uber has done everything possible to continue using low-priced, woefully inadequate background checks on drivers and has failed to monitor drivers for any violent or inappropriate conduct after they are hired", the lawsuit states.

"Uber will stop at no lengths to make a profit", alleges the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in a federal court in northern California, according to NBC. The company fired 20 employees this year after a wide-ranging investigation into its climate and workplace culture after former employee Susan Fowler detailed how her sexual harassment complaints were ignored by management and human resources employees for a year - and reports abounded about widespread sexual harassment at the company.

But the question at the heart of this new case is one that Uber has been navigating since its inception: Are its background checks thorough enough?

Uber has argued that the screening standards applied in Maryland - where thousands of drivers have been rejected upon review since December 2015 - are outdated, overly broad and fail to adhere to a legal standard established by the state Public Service Commission a year ago.

It says the firm has resisted changes, such as more stringent background checks, that would improve passenger safety.

The suit includes information from an October story published in The Washington Post that said almost 15 percent of new ride-hail drivers in Maryland had been dismissed in the preceding six months for failing to meet state regulators' screening standards; of 3,503 applicants dismissed, 460 were booted for disqualifying criminal histories. In fact, the state found that 51 of those drivers who were rejected were sex offenders and 352 of them had been accused of incidents related to "sex, abuse and exploitation". It further says that Uber targets intoxicated passengers as a safe ride for riders who have been drinking.

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

Uber has successfully opposed state or national attempts at mandating fingerprint background checks in many markets, with the notable exception of NY and London. It's unclear whether Uber received complaints specific to these drivers.

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