It’s pretty clear at this point that Uber just doesn’t get how to treat women right — a board member recently resigned after making a sexist joke during an all-hands meeting to discuss, among other problems the company can’t shake, a culture of sexual harassment. So it’s disappointingly unsurprising to hear that an Indian woman who was raped by an Uber driver in 2014 is now suing Uber and several of its executives for prying into her medical records.
It’s no secret that rape victims face an uphill battle just to seek justice against their attackers. But the lengths Uber leadership reportedly went to in order to suppress and discredit the rape allegations is astounding. The plaintiff was raped during an Uber ride in New Dehli three years ago. She reported the assault despite the driver threatening further harm if she went to the police. Once Uber found out, the company responded by touting its driver screening process and emphasizing the safety measures it has in place.
Behind the scenes, however, Uber continued to victimize the plaintiff by somehow obtaining her medical records in violation of Indian and American privacy laws. Not only did executive Eric Alexander get the medical records, he proceeded to carry them around with him for months and showed them to CEO Travis Kalanick, now-former SVP of business Emil Michael, and others.
The myth of false reporting by rape victims is a persistent one, but Uber executives took that all-too-common accusation a step further. They cooked up a theory that the plaintiff was not a rape victim at all, but part of a plot by ride-sharing rival Ola to give Uber bad press. The victim’s attorney released a statement on the matter:
“It is shocking that Travis Kalanick could publicly say that Uber would do everything to support our client and her family in her recovery when he and other executives were reviewing illegally obtained medical records and engaging in offensive and spurious conspiracy theories about the brutal rape she so tragically suffered. Rape denial is just another form of the toxic gender discrimination that is endemic at Uber and ingrained in its culture. Hopefully, this lawsuit coupled with the changes recommended by the independent counsel will create real change and reform at Uber and elsewhere.”
Three years and numerous other scandals later, Uber’s valuation has risen to nearly $70 billion, Kalanick has (temporarily?) left the company, Emil Michael is expected to resign, a board member just was ousted for making a sexist remark, and at least 20 other employes are being let go after a massive sexual harassment probe. And then there is the plaintiff, who despite all this, is refusing to back down.