Uber Fined $59 Million; California to Suspend License if Sexual Harassment Details Aren't Disclosed

Uber's battle with California regulators has reached a crucial moment, with the ride-hail operator slapped a $59 million over the refusal to pass on information on sexual assault cases and harassment claims by its drivers and riders.

Shocking Violation of Privacy

California's Public Utilities Commission said Uber would be asked to shut down operations if it does not comply with the order. The stalemate is likely to continue as Uber has said it won't pass on the details as it wants to protect victims' identities. Uber has consistently maintained that it is opposed to the "shocking violation of privacy."

However, Robert Mason, an administrative law judge with the California Public Utilities Commission, said this argument will not hold water.

The Uber logo is seen on a screen in Singapore August 4, 2017 Thomas White/Reuters

Earlier this month the ride-hailing company disclosed that it had got more than 3,000 reports of sexual assault related in the US last year. Uber has been repeatedly confronted with lawsuits over passenger safety and driver misconduct in various countries. Uber operates in as many as 70 countries.

The company says that 99.9 percent of its 2.3 billion U.S. trips in 2017 and 2018 were incident-free. The report said the company received 235 reports of "non-consensual sexual penetration" and 280 complaints of attempted non-consensual sexual penetration in the last year, according to Reuters.

Improving Uber's Culture and Safety

Uber Technologies Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said he prioritized improving Uber's culture and safety. "I suspect many people will be surprised at how rare these incidents are; others will understandably think they're still too common. Some people will appreciate how much we've done on safety; others will say we have more work to do. They will all be right," he said last week,

uber employees demonstrate
George, 35, protests with other commercial drivers with the app-based, ride-sharing company Uber against working conditions outside the company's office in Santa Monica, California, June 24, 2014. Reuters

The California case relates to an 80-page report Uber published last year, saying it had received 6,000 reports of sexual assault and harassment in the United States in 2017 and 2018. The cases included 464 rapes as well. Some 20 percent of the harassment cases in the whole country was reported in California.

California regulators have said they want to probe these cases and are seeking key information from Uber. In the face of Monday's order, Uber has to decide which course it would take. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the ride-hail company is considering its next steps.