An internal investigation into Uber’s workplace, sparked by a former engineer’s widespread essay about what she described as a culture of sexual harassment, is expected to wrap in the coming days. But a thorough report from The Intercept highlights one component that’ll be missing from the review: Uber’s drivers, as they aren’t considered full-time employees, just contractors.
The impact of the arrangement is clear, according to the report: “Uber riders rate each driver on a five-star scale and, if a driver’s average dips just a few tenths of a point below perfect, Uber can terminate her,” reporter Avi Asher-Schapiro writes in the piece. “So women are under intense pressure to tolerate sexual harassment with a smile.”
Asher-Schapiro highlights the stories of multiple female drivers, including Rachel Galindo. From the outset, she said she was harassed.
On three separate occasions, she said, passengers got into her car and, without saying anything else, simply asked, “How much for a BJ?” Another passenger kept referring to her as “it” during the ride and, when Galindo asked her to stop, the passenger responded, “Well, I just don’t know ‘what’ you are.”
She repeatedly complained to Uber about such incidents, but she said the company would only respond using generic emails — it took three years of lodging regular complaints for an actual Uber employee to call Galindo on the phone to discuss the repeated harassment.
“I kept crying for help,” she said. “But no one was listening.”
Uber disputed the characterizations of how it treats driver complaints of sexual harassment, and pointed out options drivers have if a passenger attacks them. Asher-Schapiro spoke with female drivers who said the experience is “impersonal, maddening, time-consuming, and entirely lacking in transparency.”
The story’s well-worth a read, and can be found here.