Uber Faces $54 Million Fine For Failing to Release Data on Sexual Assault

Image: ROBYN BECK (Getty Images)

Uber and the state of California have a long and storied history of mutual animosity. In 2020, Uber spent millions to defeat California measures to protect drivers, and now, they’re back in court battling it out again, as Uber refuses to turn over information around the 1,243 reports of sexual assault the company received from riders in California between 2017-18.

In December, the California Public Utilities Commission levied a $59 million fine against Uber for failing to turn the data over to a five-person commission appointed to review the findings of Uber’s 2019 internal report, which revealed 6,000 incidents of sexual assault on Uber riders, with a significant amount of those assaults occurring in California. While the original order demanded that Uber turn over the names of victims, in December, a CPUC judge said that victims’ names could be replaced by anonymizing code. However, the commission presumably still wants the names of employees who received the reports.

On January 11, victims advocacy group RAINN sided with Uber, writing “Companies should be commended, not penalized, for their transparency and commitment to protecting survivors,” in a public filing, according to Reuters. Uber’s Chief Legal Officer Tony West followed up with a statement arguing that releasing the data would potentially “re-traumatize” survivors.

But it’s hard to ignore the fact that Uber has never been particularly fussed about traumatizing anyone. The company has been sued by hundreds of riders who were allegedly sexually assaulted by its drivers, claiming that the company failed to conduct thorough background checks on its drivers and and accused the Uber of “forcing customers to pursue sexual assault claims through independent arbitration, rather than in court; requiring survivors to sign nondisclosure agreements preventing them from speaking publicly; and withholding data,” according to Business Insider.

Additionally, Uber’s former CEO Travis Kalanik has a reported history of spending millions to harass journalists attempting to report on the company’s alleged attempts to cover up the rampant sexual assaults the Uber acknowledged in its report. This case is obviously fraught with a lot of bullshit from both sides, and no matter what the outcome of the court may be, the loser will certainly be the victims of sexual assault, who should have been protected from those assaults in the first place.

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