POLITICS

Sen. Richard Blumenthal Demands Answers From Uber, Lyft Over Sexual Assault Allegations

The Democratic senator suggested the ride-hailing companies aren't taking complaints of sexual misconduct by drivers seriously.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wants Uber and Lyft to explain how the ride-hailing companies intend to keep passengers safe in light of repeated allegations of sexual assault and misconduct that have been leveled against drivers. 

Blumenthal, a leading Senate Democrat, penned separate letters last week to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Lyft CEO Logan Green in which he lambasted the companies for not doing enough to protect riders from predatory drivers — and demanded information about the companies’ policies on sexual harassment and driver reviews.

In his letter to Khosrowshahi, Blumenthal ― citing a recent Washington Post report about how Uber allegedly prioritizes its own bottom line over rider safety ― said he was concerned “about whether your company takes sexual misconduct seriously.” To Green, Blumenthal wrote that he was disturbed by reports that Lyft had not adequately responded to complaints of sexual assault.

On Tuesday, Blumenthal wrote on Twitter that while Uber and Lyft have stated publicly that “they ‘do not tolerate harassment or violence’ on their platform … if they aren’t taking reports of harassment & violence seriously, this is difficult to believe.”

Uber announced a series of safety updates to its app last week, including a feature that will allow riders in some cities to text 911 directly from the platform.

Blumenthal, however, skewered the updates as a “meager start.”

“They do nothing to address the fundamental problems of ensuring drivers pass rigorous background checks & preventing predatory drivers from jumping from one app to another,” the senator wrote in a tweet. 

Responding to Blumenthal’s letter, an Uber spokesperson told WABC-TV in a statement that the company had made “substantial investments” into “our safety technology, policies and processes,” including a special investigative team that looks specifically into reports of rides gone wrong.  

“We are very proud of this team’s work and know they approach their jobs with tremendous compassion and understanding,” the spokesperson said. “Characterizing this team as anything but providing support to people after a difficult experience is just wrong.” 

A spokesman for Lyft, which recently also updated its safety policies, told The Washington Post that the company was “eager to engage with Senator Blumenthal and other policymakers to increase awareness and understanding of Lyft’s ongoing safety efforts.” 

“Safety is fundamental to Lyft, which is why since Day 1 we have worked hard to design policies and features that protect riders and drivers,” spokesman Adrian Durbin said. 

A lawsuit filed in San Francisco earlier this month accused Lyft of failing to adequately respond to nearly 100 customer reports of rape, sexual harassment or abuse from their drivers.  

CNN reported last year that at least 103 Uber drivers in the U.S. had been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers over the previous four years.

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