CALIFORNIA—On Monday, December 14, Uber was ordered to pay $59 million for refusing to provide data on sexual assault and sexual harassment incidents to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
CPUC’s Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Robert M. Mason III said in his decision that Uber did not give “information regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment claims” and “information regarding the authorship of Uber’s US Safety Report” after two previous rulings in December 2019 and January 2020.
Mason ordered Uber to hand over the data and pay the $59 million fine within 30 days. If the company does not, its California license will be suspended until Uber pays “the penalty plus any interest that has accrued, and has complied with” the December 2019 and January 2020 rulings.
He added that the company’s refusal was done “without any legitimate legal or factual grounds.” Uber argued that it did not comply because victims’ information might be infringed.
Uber’s $59,085,000 fine was added up from $7,500 per violation for every day that the company refused to comply.
In December 2019, Uber released an 84-page report that revealed there were more than 1.3 billion rides in 2018 alone and more than 3,000 reports of sexual assault, including 235 rapes.
In 2017, Uber had around 1 billion rides and around 2,900 reports of sexual assault, including 229 rapes.
The years of 2017 and 2018 had a combined 3.1 million total rides in the United States. During both years, Uber said there were “1,243 reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment within California,” which is “21 percent” of the nearly 6,000 reports that Uber received both years, according to court documents.
When the report was released last year, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a tweet on December 5, 2019:
“Doing the right thing means counting, confronting, and taking action to end sexual assault. My heart is with every survivor of this all-too-pervasive crime. Our work will never be done, but we take an important step forward today.”
The recent ruling comes more than a month after California residents voted to pass Proposition 22, which excludes delivery and ride services from being identified as state employees. Uber and Lyft spent millions of dollars to get it passed and threatened to leave the state if it failed.
Andrew Hasbus, Head of Safety Communications for Uber, gave the San Francisco News the following statement:
“In December 2019, we were the first company in the industry to release a US Safety Report. Since then, the CPUC has been insistent in its demands that we release the full names and contact information of sexual assault survivors without their consent. We opposed this shocking violation of privacy, alongside many victims’ rights advocates. Now, a year later, the CPUC has changed its tune: we can only provide anonymized information — yet we are also subject to a $59 million fine for not complying with the very order the CPUC has fundamentally altered. These punitive and confusing actions will do nothing to improve public safety and will only create a chilling effect as other companies consider releasing their own reports. Transparency should be encouraged, not punished.”
Tony West, Uber’s Chief Legal Officer, tweeted that he began his “legal career fighting for victims of sexual violence” and said the CPUC’s decision is “simply wrong.” West added that Uber will “push back hard on heavy-handed attempts to force us to release sensitive data that can re-victimize survivors.”
Uber launched in March 2009 in San Francisco, California. The first Uber trip took place more than a year later in the same city on July 5, 2010 (now its headquarters).
The company became international in December 2011.