A Michigan court has logged a lawsuit purporting to be from an Uber driver suspected of killing six people during a shooting spree last month.
The filing, submitted Wednesday, claims that Jason Dalton is suing the ride-hailing service for $10 million. The handwritten, two-page complaint (see below) blames the San Francisco-based ride-hailing startup for ruining Dalton's life, for his incarceration and for his divorce.
On Thursday, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Paul Matyas cast doubt on the source of the lawsuit, reporting that Dalton said he did not file it or ask anyone to file on his behalf.
The document presented a litany of frustrations.
"They ripped me off, never paid me back wages or overtime. I busted my butt for them," says the complaint, filed in US District Court in Detroit. "They gave me no Christmas bonus, I wasn't invited to any corporate parties, they made me work when I was sick and they didn't let me spend time with my children. Uber treats their drivers like crap."
Dalton, 45, has been in custody since a series of deadly shootings in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on February 20 that he allegedly perpetrated during a 5-hour period while still providing rides for Uber customers.
The complaint says that Dalton was responsible for buying his own gas and that Uber refused to repair his car after he hit potholes. It also says that Uber would call him late at night to work and threaten him with termination if he didn't drive.
"This company is a hostile workplace environment," the lawsuit says. "I'm tired of being treated [as] a 2nd class citizen by Uber. Uber discriminates against my mental health."
A lack of benefits is one of the chief complaints drivers have against Uber, one of the most high-profile companies in what's known as the gig economy in which workers function as independent contractors rather than employees. As contract workers, the drivers don't get health insurance, paid sick days or overtime. The lower costs have helped it upend the traditional taxi business in cities around the world.
When contacted for comment on the lawsuit, Uber said Dalton alone was responsible for his actions.
"It's hard to know how to respond to someone who refuses to take responsibility for his own actions," the company said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to victims' families who have to live with the consequences of his terrible crimes."
The Michigan shootings have resurrected concerns of how thorough Uber's background checks are. Last April, authorities in Houston charged that an Uber driver, who underwent a background check, allegedly took a drunk female passenger to his home and raped her. Last August, prosecutors in California filed charges that Uber's background checks failed to weed out 25 drivers with criminal records, including convictions for murder, assault, sex offenses and child abuse.
To vet its drivers, Uber runs their names through seven years of county and federal courthouse records, a multi-state criminal database, national sex offender registry, Social Security trace and motor vehicle records. Uber rejects anyone with a history of violent crimes, sexual offenses, gun-related violations or resisting arrest.
Update, March 17 at 1:32 p.m. PT:Recast the top of the story to incorporate the possibility that the lawsuit is a hoax.