US company Uber’s problems in London are increasing. On Tuesday, a 44-year-old female driver initiated sex discrimination proceedings at the Employment Tribunal against Uber claiming that the practices of the San Francisco-based company unfairly disadvantage women.
The claim is being brought by GMB, who are represented by law firm Leigh Day, on behalf of the woman Uber driver, who asked to remain anonymous.
She says that the way in which the company asks her to operate is putting her and other women at risk.
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.
About 40,000 people are believed to be working as drivers for Uber in London.
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.
Maria Ludkin, GMB Legal Director, said, “Once again we have a member with serious concerns about Uber’s systems and practices, which place the basic safety needs of the worker as secondary to the imposition of a rigid and purely profit-based model. We look forward to allowing the courts to examine whether this aspect of their model discriminates against women drivers.”
Nigel Mackay, a lawyer in the employment team at Leigh Day who is representing the driver, 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. We believe that Uber should not only ensure the safety of its passengers but also all of its drivers, and provide as much protection as possible to women to ensure that they are not vulnerable to assaults from passengers.”
A Uber spokesperson said that ‘drivers are free to log in and out as they want and can choose which trips they want to take or cancel, without any penalty’. “All trips are tracked by GPS and a driver can share a live map of their trip with a friend or loved one.”
Last week, Transport for London revoked Uber’s licence to operate. In a statement, Transport for London cited Uber’s ‘approach to reporting serious criminal offences’, amongst other things.
This prompted Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to write an open letter requesting that Uber be allowed to continue its operations in London.
The company enjoys support among Londoners who find Uber a cheaper mode of transport compared to the black cabs, and more convenient since they can be reached by an app almost round-the-clock.
Uber loses its license to operate in London