Jumping in the backseat of a stranger’s car has historically been a bad idea. The convenience factor combined with the implied oversight eventually assuaged fears and climbing into someone’s car has grown to become second-nature. At its very core, this system is based on trust. We trust the company to hire responsible drivers and to put systems in place to ensure our safety. This is why it’s so surprising that Uber has found itself in trouble yet again, challenging their customers to continue with this level of trust.
Uber is under investigation for gender discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been interviewing current and former employees, seeking executive documents, and comparing pay rates between the different genders. These accusations are still in their nascent phase, but the company’s past is a good indicator of how this might play out.
For instance, Uber drivers placed over 5,500 fake rides on Lyft to make Uber’s cars more readily available to riders. This might seem out of the company’s control, except direct employees of the company did the exact same thing. It would be bad enough to simply attempt to waste the time of a competing employee, costing them money, but then they doubled-down and attempted to poach the drivers into working for Uber.
Treating a different company’s employees poorly is in bad taste, but treating their own employees poorly seems counterintuitive. In 2017, Uber was forced to pay out 20 million dollars because they were caught lying to their drivers about how much they would earn.
Along with treating their employees dishonestly, Uber has also created secret software programs that were borderline sinister. One such program, Greyball, was created in an effort to avoid picking up law enforcement officials in cities where they knowingly violated regulations. The program wouldn’t ban the flagged officials from using their service, but instead operated as a ghost-version of the app complete with fake cars.
Uber created yet another secret program called “Hell.” Essentially, Uber created fake Lyft accounts so they could see where Lyft drivers were congregating. Uber would then send cars out to service the areas Lyft drivers weren’t found. Along with that, the program identified drivers working for both Uber and Lyft in order to send them incentives to work exclusively with Uber.
Shady business practices are indicative of the moral compass within the company, but those scandals can be chalked up to a desire to succeed. Gender discrimination needs a history of sexist actions in order to formulate an informed guess as to how this new accusation might turn out.
In 2014, a woman was raped by her Uber driver in India. This led to Uber being banned in New Dehli, citing its lax background checks and subsequent safety issues for the public. Stories like this are, unfortunately, not uncommon. What sets the New Dehli story apart, is how an Uber executive obtained the victim’s medical records because they thought it was an effort by competitors to discredit their business. They were later sued.
Early last year, a former employee outlined her experience working for Uber, complete with allegations of sexual misconduct ignored by management. Then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has, of course, come out against this saying it is “against everything Uber stands for and believes in.” However, this is coming from the same person who used the term “Boober” when referring to the company’s effect on his desirability. This is also the same man who went to a brothel with other senior executives in South Korea which led to a complaint to HR from a female marketing manager. Kalanick has since resigned.
Uber’s list of problems and scandals are too long to compile into a single article. The main takeaway is the company might not be guided by pristine principals. If they aren’t above suggesting to smear journalists and critics, or underpaying their drivers and taking a larger share of the earnings, it’s entirely possible Uber would systematically discriminate against female employees.