Ride-share company Uber punishes drivers and passengers who complain about sexual harassment, according to contractors and customers.
An Uber driver and an Uber passenger both claim the service cut them off from their app when they complained about inappropriate conduct.
Uber punishes passenger
A passenger called Lily told her story to SBS News.
She says after celebrating her 38th birthday with friends during a night out in Brisbane, she called an Uber to get home.
However, she said the driver immediately started asking strange questions.
“I had a good night and I was really chatty [to the driver] on the way home, and then when we got my house, he started to ask me strange questions like ‘is it just you and your daughter living at your place’ and ‘where is your daughter tonight?’”
Things became even more uncomfortable when they arrived at Lily’s house, when the driver turned off the ignition.
“It was at this point that I started to think, ‘this is getting a little bit weird’.
“He then unbuckled his seat belt, and I thought, ‘this is getting really weird’ and so I said ‘I’ve got to go now’.”
Lily alleges the driver then tried to hug her, and then tried twice to kiss her.
“I said ‘no’ and I got out of the car.
“Leaving the car, I was shocked, I felt extremely uncomfortable.”
Lily contacted Uber the next day to report the alleged incident.
“I didn’t want what happened to me to happen to someone else,” she said.
Uber’s Community Operations department initially responded by telling Lily it takes “user safety very seriously”.
They also promised they “will be looking into this incident carefully”.
However, a few days later, Uber sent an email telling her that her access to the app had been temporarily blocked.
The email stated the company had “recently received some concerning feedback from one of your trips regarding inappropriate conduct”.
Uber punishes driver
Karen is a full-time contractor driver for Uber and told her story to The Feed on SBS.
In June, while driving a man home, he offered to pay her for sex – an offer she politely refused.
Karen reported the incident to Uber and asked the company not to pair her with the man again.
In response, Uber banned Karen from the app for 48-hours.
She told The Feed:
“It’s the victim that gets punished, not the perpetrator.”
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Uber is legally responsible
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan says sexual harassment is unlawful in the provision of goods and services.
“Both of these incidents appear to be classic examples of sexual harassment, and in Lily’s case, possibly criminal sexual assault,” he said.
“Sexual harassment is against the law in the workplace, and it is also against the law in the provision of goods and services.
“That includes providing ride share or taxi services.”
Mr Heffernan says Uber has a legal obligation to protect its contractors and customers from sexual harassment.
“The response by the company to the complaints made by these women is woeful,” he said.
“It sounds like classic victim blaming, and it also appears that Uber failed dismally to conduct a proper investigation into the incidents.”
Mr Heffernan says sexual harassment can have a devastating impact on victims.
“People subjected to this sort of conduct can experience anxiety, depression and even post traumatic stress disorder,” he said.
Lily’s account remains suspended more than a month after the alleged incident occurred.
“It’s frustrating that they had turned their back on me when I had not done anything wrong.
“They said they would contact me, but they never did, and Uber does not have a phone contact line so there is no way to speak to a human being about this.”
Statement from Uber
Uber refused to comment on the cases, however, in a statement to SBS, it said:
“If a rider and driver-partner make safety-related reports against each other, we may temporarily remove both parties access to the app while its global incident team looks into the matter”.
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