Uber and Lyft are changing the transportation industry. The rideshare companies are also giving people a much more flexible way to make money. But for female drivers, the new freedom comes with added risk.
Driver has experienced hundreds inappropriate advances
According to Bloomberg, Uber driver Jody Pagliocco has experienced a few hundred inappropriate encounters with passengers. In one situation, she described picking up a man who sat in the front seat next to her, which made her uncomfortable. Then she drove him home down a long, secluded road. The man made a joke about not being a serial killer and then started making explicit, sexual comments. Pagliocco worried he would try to assault her, but when she reached his house, he got out of the car.
Her experience is not uncommon. A private Facebook group for female rideshare drivers has more than 10,000 members. Many of the members describe sexual harassment while driving for Uber and Lyft.
Female drivers worry they will be penalized for repelling advances
Not only do female drivers worry about encountering passengers that harass them, they also worry that turning down a passenger’s advances will end with the passenger giving them a bad rating. Or the passenger falsely reporting the driver for driving drunk or another infraction. A drunk driving report gets a driver barred from working while the report is investigated. That hurts a driver’s income.
When female drivers experience unwanted advances or inappropriate touching, many, like Pagliocco, take a few days off driving. That too affects their income.
Average male rideshare driver earns more
A study by Stanford University researchers found male drivers earn about 7 percent more per hour on average. The researchers found several factors that contributed to the pay discrepancy, but part it was attributed to male drivers driving longer hours and being less likely to quit. This lead to male drivers being able to learn more about the system, like when and where to drive to maximize earnings.
Rideshare companies claim they are combatting harassment
Uber and Lyft have taken some steps to combat sexual harassment and assault. Both rideshare companies now allow drivers to report incidents in the apps or a call line. Drivers can also call 911 through the apps.
Lyft also said it is working on 15 new features for the app, and many of them deal with driver safety. Uber has also eliminated the clause that forced all employees that alleged sexual harassment to enter forced arbitration.
Workplace sexual harassment is illegal
Sexual harassment in the workplace is taken seriously in California. Workplace sexual harassment is both a violation of federal law and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Harassment can include sexual advances, verbal or visual cues of a sexual nature and actions that are unwelcome or intimidating relating to the employee’s sex. These actions do not have to motivated by sexual desire, but only based on the employee’s gender or perceived gender.
Employees that have experienced sexual harassment should report it to their company’s human resources department or a superior. However, if that does not resolve the issue, you may have a legal case against your employer.