Lyft received a whopping 7 sexual assault lawsuits in a day
Lyft was served with seven sexual assault lawsuits on Aug. 1. Plaintiffs in each case are alleging they were raped or assaulted by their Lyft drivers and still charged for their rideeven after they reported the incidents to the company.
In the lawsuits, four of the women allege that they were raped by their drivers, and three others say they were sexually assaulted. In addition to the rape and sexual assault allegations, some of the plaintiffs experienced sexual harassment and stalking. In each case, Lyft collected a fee for the rides that resulted in the harm of the plaintiffs. The cases state that Lyfts corporate management has failed to implement the most obvious and straightforward safety procedures in order to address the growing problem of sexual assault perpetrated by Lyft drivers.
In a statement to the Daily Dot, Lyft said safety is its priority.
The safety of our riders and drivers is fundamental to Lyft, the statement read. We do not tolerate harassment or violence on our platform, and such behavior can and does result in a permanent ban from our service.
According to Levin Simes Abrams LLP, the San Francisco law firm representing the seven plaintiffs, Lyft does not have a zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment and assault. Rachel Abrams, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, told the Daily Dot that Lyft does not take complaints of sexual assault seriously.
Lyftsgeneric response to I was raped by my rideshare driver, is: Were sorry to hear you had a bad ride. Were going to look into this,’ Abrams said. Then usually the next day, (the plaintiffs) will get still an emailrather than a call in responsesaying, Well credit your ride for the $8. And thats in response to an email saying, I was sexually assaulted or raped. Its quite insulting to our clients.
Meghan McCormick, another attorney at Levin Simes Abrams, told the Daily Dot that Lyft is unresponsive to complaints of sexual assault or harassment, despite how hard plaintiffs might try to get results.
Sometimes, (Lyft says) they wont pair (a complaining rider) with that driver again, McCormick said. In some instances, theyve ended up paired with the driver again. Some have sought assurance that the driver would be suspended, and they couldnt get that assurance. Some have filed police reports, and the police have been told that they cant get information without a subpoena. I have yet to see anything from Lyft cooperating or taking these seriously.
Abrams said the law firm has recently handled a case from a woman who was supposedly unpaired with a driver she said assaulted her, but Lyft didnt follow through.
Last month, we had a client in San Diego who was severely sexually assaulted by her Lyft driver, Abrams said. She reported it to Lyft, she reported it to the police, the police contacted Lyft, and she got paired with that driver again, two days later after that. She immediately canceled it, and she had to fight to get the credit back from the original ride and the $5 charge for canceling a ride with the man that sexually assaulted her.
In a statement, Lyft said it stands by the unmatched feature and said that riders reporting unsafe behavior have the option for follow-up communication from the company.
Levin Simes Abrams, whichhas taken over 100 sexual assault cases against Lyft and Uber,said that Lyft has inadequate safety precautions, inadequate screening of drivers, a lack of monitoring rides, and a mischaracterization of safety, citing the apps attempts to appear safe for unaccompanied or intoxicated drivers. For example, the lawsuits cite that in February 2015, Lyft partnered with Its On Us, an anti-sexual assault initiative, offering free ride credits to new Lyft riders during Spring Break in order to make it easier to get a safe ride home even if youre in a new city.
McCormick said that until Lyft takes action to prevent sexual assaults perpetrated by its drivers, it needs to stop marketing toward women.
Until theyve put methods in place to put an end to it, stop encouraging women to get into a Lyft as their safe ride home when theyre intoxicated, McCormick said. Theyre still marketing themselves as a safe ride home knowing full well their rides are not always safe.
Abrams said Lyft has tried to shirk liability in cases of sexual harassment or assault by insisting that Lyft drivers are independent contractors, not employees whom the company would be liable for. Even so, the classification of the driver doesnt prevent Lyft from implementing more safety checks, Abrams said.
We strongly believe that they are employees, Abrams said. Regardless of that, they could easily have it be part of the requirements of all drivers that they have a Skype interview. That doesnt make them employees or independent contractors. That just makes sure they have to go through other safety checks.
Abrams said, in addition to video interviews, Lyft could implement sexual harassment and assault training materials.
When they have a driver on the platform, they have to review how to use the app and proceduresonhow to pick up drivers, how to end rides on their phone, Abrams said. Why cant they have a video about sexual harassment and whats appropriate and whats not and a policy that youre never supposed to touch, get out of thecar, or ask for numbers of the passengers? Those would just be requirements under their contract to drive.
Lyft told the Daily Dot that the company will be making sexual harassment prevention training available to riders and drivers but did not specify whether that training would be mandatory.
Well before these lawsuits were filed, ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber received complaints of sexual assault and harassment perpetrated by its drivers. Customers have been calling for increased security measures and complaining that the companies do not do enough when sexual assault complaints are filed.
Twitter user @meghanrother suggested Lyft and Uber do background checks for past sexual assault or domestic violence charges.Lyft says it does.But this ties into an ongoing debate between name-based background checks, which Lyft uses, and fingerprint/biometric background checks, which the attorneys at Levin Simes Abrams say would be safer.
However, according to these lawsuits, Lyft has refused to use biometric background checks which the lawsuits claim are limited and inaccurate because they do not perform as deep of a search into a persons criminal past. According to a statement from Lyft, the company said its background checks include a nationwide criminal search, county, and federal court records searches, and a sex offender registry search.
Fingerprints are not required in any of the states where statewide ridesharing legislation has been passed, the statement said. Additionally, fingerprinting relies on incomplete arrest records rather than convictions like Lyfts background checks. Looking at arrest records disproportionately disadvantages minorities and communities of color who are more likely to come into contact with the police.
— meghan rther (@meghanrother) August 21, 2019
Really wish I didnt have to fear for my life getting into an Uber or Lyft so my dad doesnt have to pick my almost 25 year old self up sexual assault and murder against innocent women am I right lol
— Katie (@katie_frace) June 16, 2019
Some riders complained via social media that when they reported their sexual assault or harassment to Lyft, the company would unpair that driver with that passenger instead of terminating the drivers employment. Alison Turkos wrote that she was kidnapped and gang-raped by her Lyft driver and two other men, and Lyft offered to unpair her with the driver.
In October 2017 I was kidnapped by a @lyft driver. He proceeded to cross state lines with me and along with 2 other men rape me. I had a similar response from Lyft. They said they would unpair me from the driver indefinitely. However, they still made me pay for the ride. https://t.co/YaEEkFU4Is
— Alison Turkos (@alisonturkos) April 9, 2019
Anna Gillcrist wrote that her Lyft driver sexually harassed her. When she reported the incident to Lyft, the company said it would unpair her from the driver and gave her a $5 ride credit.
This morning, I spoke with @lyft on the phone and told them exactly what happened. The man said Well maam we will make sure that that driver is not able to pick you up again. I explained that that wasnt good enough, that this man needed to not pick up ANY woman ever again.
— Anna gillcrist (@AnnaGillcrist) April 7, 2019
Lyft said ithas implementedfeatures that will increase rider safety, such as in-app photos of the driver and vehicle, real-time ride tracking, and a two-way rating system. The company said it has also created a safety team that handles unsafe driving, discrimination, and suspected criminal behavior.Still, the attorneys at Levin Simes Abrams are advocating for more substantial safety precautions, such as biometric fingerprinting, job interviews, and car cameras.
Abrams said until Lyft and Uber step up and take action, riders will continue to experience sexual harassment and assault at the hands of their drivers.
Its becoming an epidemic, Abrams said. This is going to continue, and its going to grow until these companies take responsibility. Only these companies can do something to effect change.
This story has been updated.
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