Uber settled a lawsuit alleging it put profit over the safety of its female customers.
The suit, originally filed October 2015 in US District Court in San Francisco, was brought by two unnamed "Jane Doe" women who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by their Uber drivers. The women said Uber should be held responsible for its drivers' actions. The details of the settlement, reached Thursday, were not released.
Uber, a ride-hailing app that pairs drivers with passengers, is the world's highest-valued venture-backed company -- valued at $68 billion. It's also one of the largest ride-hailing services on the planet, operating in more than 450 cities in more than 70 countries. The company has come under fire for dozens of sexual assaults allegedly carried out by its drivers.
A handful of states, including California and Texas, have launched investigations into Uber, claiming it routinely fails to adequately screen drivers and has hired drivers with criminal histories. Reports of sexual assaults allegedly by Uber drivers make news headlines several times a month. For example, a woman in Palo Alto, California, claims to have been groped and stalked by her Uber driver earlier this week.
Uber declined to comment on Thursday's settlement, but has said in the past that safety is its top priority and it puts all potential US drivers through commercial background checks. The company says it rejects anyone who has a history of violent crimes, sexual offenses, gun-related violations or resisting arrest. Uber doesn't require fingerprint background checks at this time.
The lawsuit involved two alleged cases of sexual assault in two different cities by two different drivers. Jane Doe 1's alleged assault took place in Boston on February 8, 2015, after she and her friends had been at a party. The complaint said her Uber driver dropped off her friends first, and then drove her along an off-route detour and groped her and forcibly kissed her. She managed to unlock the car door and escape, said the report.
Jane Doe 2's alleged assault took place in Charleston, South Carolina, on August 9, 2015, after she was at a bar with friends, according to the complaint. Like Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2's Uber driver reportedly dropped off her friends first and then took her on a detour. This time they ended up in a remote parking lot and the Uber driver allegedly raped Jane Doe 2, according to the complaint.
Uber said it barred those drivers from its service immediately after the incidents were reported. Lawyers for Uber argued that the ride-hailing company shouldn't be responsible for the drivers' alleged actions because they were independent contractors, not employees. Lawyers for the two women argued that Uber aims its marketing at young women who have been drinking but doesn't adequately background check its drivers, which leads to sexual assaults.
Along with unspecified damages, the women's lawyers requested a permanent injunction against Uber to overhaul its safety measures. These measures include requiring all drivers to install GPS tracking systems on their cars that would set off an alarm if deactivated, disabling child-lock features on passenger doors and conducting fingerprint-based background checks and in-person interviews with drivers. It's unclear if any of these measures were agreed to in the settlement.
Lawyers representing the women didn't immediately respond to request for comment.