Lawsuit Against Uber Alleges Discrimination Against Non-White Drivers

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New Class Action Lawsuit Against Uber Alleges Employment Discrimination Against Non-White Drivers

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The federal complaint, filed in the Northern District of California, alleges that Uber’s termination of drivers based on its star rating system, which allows passengers to score drivers, constitutes racial discrimination

Lawsuit Against Uber Alleges Racial Discrimination

San Francisco, CA — A former driver for Uber who was deactivated due to Uber’s use of a star rating system filed a national class action lawsuit today against the transportation service on behalf of himself and other minority former drivers.  The suit alleges that Uber’s system of evaluating drivers, and making termination decisions, based on ratings provided by passengers is influenced by racial bias of passengers and thus has a disparate adverse impact on non-white drivers.

Not only has social science research recognized that employers’ reliance on customer evaluation systems may lead to discriminatory impact on racial minorities, but Uber itself has made clear that it is aware of this problem and even made business decisions recognizing that passenger bias has an impact on drivers. In defense of its earlier position not to allow passengers to tip drivers on the app, Uber cited research in support of its argument that passengers would tip white drivers more than Black and brown drivers and thus create inequity in drivers’ pay.

“While Uber has long attempted to avoid paying its drivers proper wages, based on its misclassification of them as independent contractors, its denial of employment status also affects drivers’ ability to enforce their right to be free of racial discrimination on the job,” said Shannon Liss-Riordan, lead attorney for the proposed class, who has brought many employment cases on behalf of Uber drivers.  “Uber says it has helped provide opportunities for people of color, yet its practices — both in denying wage protections and perpetuating a discriminatory system for terminating drivers — cause particular harm to people of color.  Throughout its history, Uber has made firing decisions based on a system that it knows is poisoned with racial discrimination.Uber’s pattern of exploiting its drivers in the name of the dollar is well documented, and this lawsuit seeks to hold the company accountable for the institutional racism it has embraced and perpetuated.”

Discrimination On The Job

"As a black queer woman with over 12,000 rides to my name working for Lyft, I know a thing or two about discrimination on the job" said Cherri Murphy, a rideshare driver, minister, and lead organizer with Gig Workers Rising, which is supporting the lawsuit. "Not only have I experienced overt discrimination while driving, there is no question in my mind that passenger animus has infected the ratings I received on the app. And I'm not alone. App-based workers are primarily people of color and have undoubtedly experienced the same. However, Uber and Lyft's response - promoting Proposition 22 - is not the answer. The ballot measure waters down California employment protections and would leave hundreds of thousands of workers unprotected on the job."

The lead plaintiff in this case is San Diego resident Thomas Liu, a former Uber driver who was “deactivated” after his average rating from passengers dropped below Uber’s minimum rating of 4.6. Mr. Liu is Asian and from Hawaii and speaks with a slight accent. While driving for Uber, Plaintiff Liu noticed passengers appearing hostile to him, being unfriendly, and commenting on his accent, which appeared to him to be a result of racial discrimination. He asserts that public racial bias influenced the ratings that he, as well as other drivers, have received and that a system in which an employer uses customer ratings to make employment decisions constitutes illegal discrimination.

See the lawsuit here.