Senator pressures Uber after CNN investigation into driver assaults

A US senator is calling on Uber to make it easier for women who've been sexually assaulted by drivers to have their d...

Posted: May 3, 2018 7:03 AM
Updated: May 3, 2018 7:03 AM

A US senator is calling on Uber to make it easier for women who've been sexually assaulted by drivers to have their day in court.

The move comes in response to an exclusive CNN investigation published Monday that found at least 103 Uber drivers in the United States who have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years. The drivers were arrested, are wanted by police, or have been named in civil suits related to the incidents.

When users sign up for Uber, they agree to its terms, which includes resolving any claim on an individual basis through arbitration. It's a practice that critics say has helped the company keep the issue quiet.

In a letter sent to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi on Wednesday, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, challenged the use of forced arbitration and "respectfully requested" it end the practice.

"Claims subject to forced arbitration are relegated to private forums where powerful defendants can stack the deck against claimants and cover up wrongdoing," Blumenthal wrote. "Many potential claimants respond to this prospect by declining to file claims in the first place, leaving bad conduct undeterred."

In a statement, Uber said Wednesday that "sexual assault has no place anywhere and we are committed to doing our part to end this violence."

There is no publicly available data for the number of sexual assaults by Uber drivers or for drivers of other rideshare companies. CNN's analysis came from an in-depth review of police reports, federal court records and county court databases for 20 major U.S. cities.

Related: CNN investigation: 103 Uber drivers accused of sexual assault or abuse

At least 31 drivers have been convicted for crimes ranging from forcible touching and false imprisonment to rape, and dozens of criminal and civil cases are pending, CNN found.

CNN also contacted more than 20 police departments to obtain data on complaints that involved Uber or Lyft drivers and sexual assault. Four police departments - Austin, Boston, Denver and Los Angeles - tracked crimes involving rideshare drivers and shared their data on sexual assault complaints.

CNN did not include most of these complaints in its tally of cases, because they could not all be verified with incident reports. However, the numbers suggest that there may be many more overall incidents of sexual assault than the 103 cases found in the CNN investigation.

Uber was made aware of CNN's reporting for this story months ago but the company failed to make any executives available to speak on the record. It canceled an on-camera interview with an Uber executive earlier this month.

Jeanne Christensen, an attorney with law firm Wigdor LLP, has been pursuing Uber rape and assault cases since 2015. Christensen's firm represents a proposed class action against Uber on behalf of nine plaintiffs.

Uber is trying to compel the women to carry out their case through arbitration per its legal terms of service - and they're fighting back. Last Thursday, 14 women wrote a letter to Uber's board detailing their experiences being assaulted by their drivers. They urged the company to remove its arbitration clause, saying it silences them and forces the issue underground.

Blumenthal's letter is in support of their request, tasking Khosrowshahi with "finally demonstrat[ing] how seriously you take the issue of sexual harassment and assault."

"Your company must lead by example and show that it values transparency and your users' safety more than your company's bottom line," he wrote. "I respectfully request that you immediately stop enforcing arbitration agreements against individuals who bring claims of sexual harassment or assault."

-- CNN's Nelli Black, Curt Devine, Drew Griffin, Majlie de Puy Kamp, Collette Richards and Whitney Clegg contributed reporting.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
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