Uber's U.K. Problems Mount With Sexual Discrimination Suit

  • Uber sued in London employment court by 44-year-old driver
  • New suit comes days after Uber’s London license was revoked

Why London Has Banned Uber

Uber Technologies Inc. faced another legal setback in the U.K. as a 44-year-old female driver sued for sexual discrimination, claiming the company’s practices unfairly disadvantage women.

The suit, being bought by GMB trade union on behalf of the woman, claims that the company fails to provide sufficient security to female drivers, whose ability to work may be affected as a result, lawyers said Tuesday in an emailed statement. Uber said its app offered protections to drivers and didn’t require them to take trips they don’t want to. 

The lawsuit is among several developments that are increasing pressure on San Francisco-based Uber. London’s transport regulator is proposing banning the service from the capital because of concerns about passenger safety and an employment tribunal appeal will start probing pay and vacation time for drivers Wednesday.

"Once again we have a member with serious concerns about Uber’s systems and practices which place the basic safety needs of the worker as secondary to the imposition of a rigid and purely profit-based model," Maria Ludkin, GMB legal director, said.

The woman sued because drivers don’t know a customer’s journey until the passenger is already in the car, and if the destination is to a remote or unsafe area, the driver has no option to cancel the trip. She’s also alleging that a driver can’t cancel the journey should a customer become aggressive without facing negative feedback and losing future business.

"If a driver doesn’t want to go to a particular area there is no obligation for them to do
so," an Uber spokesperson said in an email. “One of the main reasons why women choose to drive with Uber is because of the safety features in the app. All trips are GPS tracked and a driver is able to share a live map of their trip with a friend or loved one.”

Harassment

Uber has been besieged by sexual harassment claims. Susan Fowler, a former engineer, penned a searing blog post earlier this year chronicling behavior that helped drive co-founder Travis Kalanick out of his job. In the post, Fowler accused a former manager of propositioning her for sex and that Uber’s human-resources department told her it wouldn’t punish him because he was a top performer.

The startup has also fired over 20 people after a company-wide investigation into harassment claims. Senior management including Kalanick and Emil Michael, the ousted senior vice president for business, also visited a Korean escort and karaoke club with male and female colleagues.

In August, U.K. police wrote to Transport for London regarding their concern that the company had continued to employ a driver after he was accused of sexual assault.

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