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LONDON – Uber has been accused of sex discrimination by a female British driver, the latest in a chain of legal battles the Californian ride-hailing firm is facing in the UK and around the world.
A 44-year-old driver from London is bringing a case against Uber in an employment tribunal, with the help of the union GMB and law firm Leigh Day – both of which have been involved in previous action against the transportation company.
The case comes after London transport regulator TfL (Transport for London) declined to renew Uber’s license to operate on Friday, saying it was not “fit and proper” to hold one – a decision Uber is appealing in the courts.
And on Wednesday, Uber is appealing a landmark ruling that its drivers should be considered workers rather than self-employed independent contractors, as Uber maintains they are, and should be entitled to additional benefits like sick pay and the minimum wage.
In the new case, the female driver claims that Uber is “putting her and other women at risk,” GMB said in an emailed statement. Her complaints are:
“The female driver claims that the way Uber operates means that drivers do not know their passenger’s destination until the passenger is already in the car and if that passenger’s journey is to a remote or unsafe area, the driver then has no option to cancel the journey.
“Similarly, if a customer becomes aggressive in the car, the driver cannot cancel the journey and, if she asks the passenger to leave the car, she faces a customer complaint and low rating which could affect future work.
The claim brought at the Central London Employment Tribunal argues that Uber should allow drivers to challenge complaints and low ratings, so that drivers do not risk losing their jobs if they ask passengers to leave their cars for their own safety.”
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In an emailed statement, an Uber spokesperson said: “Drivers on the Uber app are free to log in and out as they want and can choose which trips they want to take, or cancel, without any penalty. If a driver doesn’t want to go to a particular area there is no obligation for them to do so. Drivers can also set a preferred destination in the app and Uber will only allocate bookings heading that way. One of the main reasons why women choose to drive with Uber is because of the safety features in the app. All trips are GPS tracked and a driver is able to share a live map of their trip with a friend or loved one.”
Leigh Day lawyer Nigel Mackay said: “We believe that Uber’s policies do not do enough to protect female drivers. In particular, if a driver is faced with the threat of assault from a passenger and asks him to leave, she risks complaints and low ratings, with no right of reply, and ultimately may lose her job as a result.
“Our client no longer feels able to drive in the evening or at night time, suffering a loss of income as a result.”
In recent months Uber has been left reeling from a string of corporate scandals, ranging from allegations of a sexist corporate culture to the use of a “Greyball” tool to deceive regulators around the world, culminating in the ousting of then-CEO Travis Kalanick by investors.