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What Are Some Examples of Uber Discrimination Cases?

What Are Some Examples of Uber Discrimination Cases?

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What Are Some Examples of Uber Discrimination Cases?

Founded in 2009, Uber is the world’s most prominent and most controversial ride-sharing application. The official launch was in San Francisco, where the company quickly saw explosive growth due to the ease and simplicity of securing a ride from your phone. It took just two years for the company to launch its services internationally. However, the company has been steeped in scandal and controversy, including Uber drivers assaulting passengers, hidden data breaches, sexism at the corporate level, and the undermining of competitors by unethical tactics. 

It came to the surprise of no one that the company culture made it a hostile place to work. In fact, it was so bad that Uber hired a former U.S. attorney general to conduct a private investigation into its own workplace culture. The result of that internal investigation led to the firing of more than 20 employees after reviewing more than 215 complaints, mainly regarding discrimination, sexual harassment, and unbecoming behavior. 

In 2018, Liane Hornsey, Uber’s H.R. chief, resigned after a discrimination probe alleges she dismissed allegations of discrimination lodged within the company and even participated in discriminatory remarks towards the company’s head of diversity herself. Additional Uber discrimination cases have added to the company’s woes. Let’s take a look at some of those examples.

Race-biased rating system leads to firings

In Liu v. Uber Technologies Inc., Uber was accused of violating the U.S. Civil Rights Act because it uses a rating system for its drivers. The plaintiff alleges that Uber is aware that people will use this rating system to demonstrate their racial biases by giving people of color low ratings. When an Uber driver’s score drops below a certain threshold, the company “deactivates” the driver. This particular lawsuit is complicated because Uber argues that since their drivers are independent contractors, they don’t have the same protections under the Civil Rights Act that actual employees have. 

Liu argues that he experienced signs of racism when he operated in San Diego because rides would be canceled when they saw his picture or passengers would ask rudely, “Where are you from?” Furthermore, he says that Uber understood these problems because the company cited racist bias as an argument to disallow in-app gratuities. The star rating system leaves non-white drivers vulnerable to discriminatory termination. As of June 2021, the class action lawsuit started by Liu is still pending despite Uber’s bid to have it tossed out. 

Uber faces claims of racial discrimination in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, drivers claim that Uber’s new facial recognition software, which is a requirement for drivers checking in for work, malfunctions because of race. Drivers must take a selfie picture that is compared to their Uber account profile. If the automated system doesn’t recognize the selfie, the driver’s account is deactivated, essentially firing the driver. 

The facial recognition software Uber used was developed by Microsoft, which conceded their software did not work well for people of color and should be used in conjunction with meaningful human review to detect misidentification. 

A survey revealed that 9 in ten private hire drivers in London are black, Asian, or mixed-race. Although Uber claims that there are two manual human reviews before a driver is removed from the platform and that removal can be appealed, however, that doesn’t help those that have been improperly removed from the system while they await the results of the appeal. One driver lost his Transport for London license due to the checks and was unable to work for four months because of the mistake. He stated that Uber offered no compensation for the error. 

The United States Department of Justice sues Uber for overcharging people with disabilities

In November of 2021, the Justice Department announced a lawsuit against Uber for violating Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for its policy to charge passengers wait time fees. Wait time fees start just two minutes after the Uber driver arrives and continue until the vehicle leaves for its destination. 

The department alleges that Uber’s policy violates the ADA by failing to reasonably modify the policy for passengers who, because of their disability, take more time to enter the Uber vehicle. Persons with disabilities can take more time for many reasons, such as using a wheelchair or walker that needs to be broken down and stored or a blind person making their way safely to the vehicle. Even though Uber understands that disabled people will need additional time, the clock starts ticking at two minutes. 

The lawsuit requests the courts order Uber to stop its discrimination against disabled people, change its policy to comply with the ADA, train drivers on ADA, and pay damages to people who’ve been taken advantage of by this illegal policy. Furthermore, the department seeks a civil penalty against Uber for the public interests to end discrimination towards disabled individuals. The ADA guarantees equal access for all. 

Uber settles $10 million class action lawsuit for discrimination against minorities and women

Over 400 female and minority software engineers joined a class action lawsuit against the company, alleging a hostile work environment and discrimination against people based on race, gender, and nationality. The lawsuit was initially filed in San Francisco Superior Court in October 2017 by two female software developers alleging the company paid other women and minority engineers less than their male coworkers for the same work. They also alleged they were promoted slower and received biased performance evaluations compared to Asian and white male engineers. 

Under the settlement, an Uber spokesperson stated that the company had started a new compensation policy, made changes to its performance review process, and implemented a diversity report to make the company more welcoming to its employees. Additionally, the company has started offering mentorship and skill development opportunities to women and people of color. 

Software engineer sues Uber over sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and pay inequity

Ingrid Avendaño worked at Uber as a software engineer for a little more than three years. She experienced retaliation after repeated complaints against another employee who was eventually terminated for allegations of sexual harassment. She was also paid less than her white male counterparts.

She says the company didn’t do enough to address her problems. She suffered emotional and physical distress and was eventually hospitalized and resigned. She is asking for compensation for lost wages and benefits as well as emotional distress and wants her job back. She was not part of the $10 million settlement mentioned previously because her individual claims were more complicated.

Uber ordered to pay $1.1 million for discrimination against a blind passenger

Lisa Irving, a blind Bay Area resident, was denied rides by Uber drivers over a dozen times because she was accompanied by her seeing-eye dog, Bernie. A private arbitrator ordered Uber to pay $1.1 million after rejecting Uber’s argument that since drivers were independent contractors, they weren’t responsible for their driver’s behaviors. 

This was not the first time the company was sued for its treatment of the blind. In 2014 the National Federation of the Blind brought a class action lawsuit against Uber for denying services to blind passengers because of service animals. The class action was settled in 2016 and included an agreement that Uber would terminate drivers that willfully refused rides because of service animals. However, that didn’t seem to make a difference as Uber had 21,000 complaints about service animal discrimination since the settlement, including Lisa Irving’s. The issue of discrimination against riders with service animals continues to be a pervasive problem.

Uber fires Philly man for criminal offenses dating back to the 1980s

In response to horror stories of Uber drivers assaulting passengers brought to light by a CNN investigation, Uber announced a new safety campaign that included reruns of background checks. Kendall Reese had been driving for Uber since 2017. When his background check was rerun, it caught two criminal offenses Reese had done jail time for when he was a teenager, and his driving privileges were revoked. 

Reese, now in his 50s, said that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people in both instances. Since he was poor, he had a public defender who urged him to plead guilty both times to avoid a lengthy prison sentence. Since he passed the initial background check, it’s assumed Uber had changed the conditions of the background checks.  

Reese went on to become a father, went to college, and got both an undergraduate and master’s degree. He sat as a board member at the Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation and volunteered with the Police Athletic League coaching children in basketball in Philadelphia.

After getting nowhere with appeals to Uber, Reese decided to file a federal lawsuit for discriminatory practices after getting a right-to-sue letter from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC.) The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting employers from discriminating based on race, color, sex, religion, and national origin. 

In 2012 the EEOC approved “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” which changed how employers hire in the U.S. Under this guidance, an employer can be liable for Title VII violation if policy or practices unequally screens out an individual who is a member of a Title VII protected group. Reese is African American.

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FAQ

Morgan & Morgan

  • How can Morgan & Morgan help with Uber discrimination cases?

    Morgan & Morgan’s labor & employment lawyers have been recognized by Law360 for representing clients in more labor and employment cases than any other law firm. For more than 30 years, our law firm has worked to protect the rights of individuals who have experienced discrimination in the workplace and beyond. We believe in making things right for our clients, and that means fighting hard to win compensation for discriminatory practices. 

    When going up against billion-dollar companies like Uber, you need equally powerful legal representation. That’s what you get at Morgan & Morgan. Not only have we handled the most labor and employment cases, but we’re also one of the largest law firms in the U.S. Our strength is your strength because we have a tremendous amount of resources at our disposal to help you win. 

    We believe discrimination is a vile practice that has to be stopped in this country. Nothing sends a more powerful message to these big companies than the exposure of illegal practices and a costly lawsuit. If you’ve been the victim of any kind of discrimination from Uber or its drivers, contact us today for a free case evaluation. You don’t pay unless we win. 

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