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Article

18 Jan 2022

Author:
Anna Betts, The Verge

USA: Women rideshare drivers don’t feel protected by Uber & Lyft against sexual harassment & abuse from passengers, report finds

"Women who drive for Uber and Lyft are being left to fend for themselves", 18 January 2022

[...]

In interviews with over 25 female rideshare drivers across the country, their experiences vary, from having passengers flirt with them, solicit them for sex, or making unwanted advances toward them. Many said they have taken to carrying pepper spray or other defensive weapons in their vehicles in defiance of the app company’s policies banning such items. All of the drivers said that they do not feel completely protected or supported by the companies on whose platforms they conduct their business…Passengers are not currently required to complete background checks or sexual misconduct training before making an account…enforcing these additional measures could slow down the sign-up process, which rideshare companies tout as a central, seamless feature of their service.

...there is no identity verification needed for passengers unless they are paying with a gift card or prepaid card. Riders can technically still use fake names or their friend’s accounts, making them harder to identify and track down if a report is made against them.

Rideshare drivers are legally classified as independent contractors, so they lack the protections available to regular employees…

Many female drivers are mothers and value the ability to set their own schedules. But they say that the lack of safety measures limits the flexibility that drew them to the work in the first place.

Choosing whether or not to drive at night is a decision that many female drivers face. The demand is higher at night, so they can make more money, but they are more likely to encounter inappropriate or threatening passengers…

Some female drivers take it upon themselves to find ways to pre-empt passengers from doing anything inappropriate or unsafe. The tactics range from putting music on to avoid conversation to forgoing makeup and wearing baggy clothes so they don’t come across as “too attractive.” Several drivers even wear fake wedding rings and tell their passengers that their partners work in law enforcement…

Many women admitted to carrying some type of weapon in their cars for protection…going against company policy…

When approached for comment, Jodi Kawada Page, a spokesperson from Uber said…

“...We have pioneered new safety features, processes, and policies guided by experts and gender-based violence prevention advocates.”

Page went on to highlight many new features and policies that Uber has implemented...that are focused on passenger and driver safety. These include but are not limited to having launched a 24-7 dedicated survivor support hotline, an in-app emergency 911 button as well as educational videos, developed with RAINN, which are sent to riders and drivers when they receive a report of inappropriate behavior.

The spokesperson explained that Uber has recently implemented a system that prevents people who have been previously deactivated from making a new account by flagging fraud indicators such as similar data and information.

Last year, Uber announced their new rider verification system that asks some passengers for an extra level of verification. This feature only applies to passengers using anonymous forms of payment such as Venmo or a gift card…

Ashley Adams, a spokesperson from Lyft, said that...they are constantly designing features and policies in an attempt to help make every Lyft ride safe. In the email, the spokesperson pointed to features such as the in-app emergency help button as well as their 24/7 safety support line...

“While we do unpair riders and drivers who rate each other 3 stars or fewer, when we receive safety reports it is our policy to take additional action, which can include investigating internally, gathering additional information from riders and drivers, and deactivating the accounts used,” said Adams in an email.

In certain markets, Lyft said that they are working on ways to identify and take action against new and existing rider accounts that they determine to be high-risk. These include temporarily and permanently deactivating accounts, blocking users from creating new accounts, and requiring riders to submit additional information before requesting a ride.

“...accounts of drivers or riders who engage in such behavior or otherwise violate our Community Guidelines are permanently removed from the platform,” Adams said in an email.

[...]