A woman who was raped in India by her Uber driver in 2014 filed suit against the company Thursday, after news emerged last week that a top Uber executive who has since been fired, Eric Alexander, obtained her medical records after the crime, hoping to discredit her.
The suit singles out Alexander along with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and another former executive with the company, Emil Michael. It accuses Uber and the three men of illegally acquiring the woman’s medical records from her sexual assault, seeking to prove that “she had colluded with a rival company to harm Uber’s business.”
Alexander, who had headed Uber’s operations in Asia, was fired last week. Michael, the senior vice president of business, resigned earlier this week, reportedly under pressure from Uber’s board of directors.
The woman was identified only as “Jane Doe,” a resident of Texas, in the suit filed by the New York law firm Wigdor LLP.
“The new complaint arises as a result of Uber obtaining [Jane Doe’s] detailed and confidential medical records, sharing them amongst executives and discussing that her rape was somehow part of a plan hatched by a competitor to derail Uber’s growth in India,” Wigdor partner Jeanne M. Christensen said in an email to HuffPost.
The competitor in question, an Indian ride-hailing company named “Ola,” called Uber “despicable” last week for believing it was in any way related to the rape.
The law firm’s founding partner, Douglas H. Wigdor, said in a statement:
It is shocking that Travis Kalanick could publicly say that Uber would do everything to support our client and her family in her recovery when he and other executives were reviewing illegally obtained medical records and engaging in offensive and spurious conspiracy theories about the brutal rape she so tragically suffered. Rape denial is just another form of the toxic gender discrimination that is endemic at Uber and ingrained in its culture. Hopefully, this lawsuit coupled with the changes recommended by the independent counsel will create real change and reform at Uber and elsewhere.
The counsel Wigdor refers to issued a harsh report earlier this week on the work environment at San Francisco-based Uber, including an indifference by top managers to sexual harassment complaints. Kalanick, meanwhile, has taken a leave of absence from the company, saying it was to grieve for his mother who died in a boating accident late last month.
An Uber spokeswoman told HuffPost the company regrets its actions in the rape case.
“No one should have to go through a horrific experience like this,” she said, “and we’re truly sorry that she’s had to relive it over the last few weeks.”
As a result of the incident, Uber rolled out more safety features, including intensifying background checks of potential drivers and installing an in-app “panic” button in India.