Uber Hit With Another Sexual Assault Lawsuit

Uber cars appear in San Francisco Calif. in this undated image

The women seeking class-action status asked for compensation for suffering but also for a judge to order an injunction to force Uber to change its policies including implementing stricter driver background checks.

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? Nothing meaningful has been done to make rides safer for passengers - especially women. The company was banned from New Delhi in 2014 after a driver allegedly raped one of his passengers. It further says that Uber targets intoxicated passengers as a safe ride for riders who have been drinking.

In the suit, filed today in U.S. District Court in Northern California, Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 describe being raped by Uber drivers. Other background checks, like fingerprinting, says the complaint, would go further back. According to the suit, the company through which Uber runs background checks is more cursory and only goes back seven years into an applicants history.

Concerns about Uber's screening procedures for drivers have dogged the company for a number of years.

An Uber spokesperson said the company received the complaint today and is now reviewing it.

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The lawsuit, which describes the details of the assaults faced by the two plaintiffs, seeks damages for plaintiffs and to force Uber to take steps to prevent assault by drivers.

However, the case hinges on issues the ride-hail company, which is no stranger to legal battles, has long fought across the globe: Background checks and being treated like other for-hire companies.

The lawsuit describes all the access Uber provides for drivers to commit sexual assault.

It says Uber has skirted regulators by classifying itself as a technology company but it is essentially a taxi company with drivers that should be considered employees.

The complaint argues that the victims' claims are not affected by arbitration clauses in Uber's terms of service with riders, because under California Supreme Court decisions, "Uber can not cause consumers to waive a statutory right to seek public injunctive relief in any forum". "This self-serving guise has added to Uber's ability to avoid spending more money on driver screening both before and after hiring, and to avoid regulatory measures directed at safety during ride". "Period." That includes divulging how many reports of sexual assault Uber receives and what it does with those reports. The executive named Eric Alexander, who has since been fired, carted those files around for a year.

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