A lawyer for former Uber driver Thomas Liu, who was fired in 2015, said her client had frequently received unfriendly comments from drivers.
A former Uber driver in California has sued the ride-sharing agency, claiming its internal driver rating system will facilitate racial discrimination.
According to National Public Radio, the San Diego-based plaintiff alleged that Uber's “star” rating system, which riders use to rate drivers' performance by giving them between one and five stars, is disproportionate to the dismissal of skinned and skinned workers leads accents.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of former rideshare operator Thomas Liu, alleged that Uber had long known its system was causing a bias.
"Uber has long known that it is discriminatory to rely on a system that relies on passengers' rating of drivers," wrote Liss-Riordan in the complaint filed in federal court in San Francisco earlier this week has been.
As a prospective class action lawsuit, the lawsuit is intended to represent all drivers who have been terminated due to consistently low ratings. It also calls on the courts to issue an order banning Uber from continuing to use its star-based rating system.
"Uber's use of this system to determine driver dismissals constitutes racial discrimination as it is generally accepted that employee customer reviews are often racially biased," the lawsuit said. "Indeed, Uber itself recognized the racist tendency of its own customers."
NPR notes that Liu is described in the lawsuit as an "Asian" from Hawaii who speaks with a light accent. According to Liu, Uber forced him off the platform in October 2015 after his driver rating dropped below 4.6.
Liu says his ratings were influenced more by breed than by his own performance.
Image from the Uber app by Ryan J. Farrick.
"He noticed driving requests [cancellation] after he had already accepted the ride and the driver could see his picture," the lawsuit said. "He also saw drivers who asked unkindly where he was from."
Fortune.com notes that Liu previously referred his case to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC].
Although the EEOC was unable to make a decision on whether Liu's dismissal constituted racial discrimination, the commission authorized him to pursue his case in court.
However, Uber has come out firmly against Liu and Liss-Riordan's claims. In a statement emailed to Fortune.com, Uber spokesman Matt Kallman described the lawsuit as "flimsy" and said that carpooling "eradicated the prejudice for both drivers and drivers who now have fairer and equitable access to work and." Transportation has decreased significantly than ever before. "
Several drivers and Uber affiliates surveyed by the California Globe at the right center backed Uber, saying the company isn't quitting its employees because they simply have below average ratings.
"They don't fire people based solely on ratings," Uber driver Alejandro Soto told Globe. “There has to be an established pattern. They know: unsafe driving, an unclean interior, yelling at passengers, smoking in the car. There must be several similar complaints. Uber simply won't fire anyone who falls below 4.6. There has to be a reason. A pattern that says why.
"Honestly, that's probably why the EEOC refused to pursue this," said Soto. "There's something else we don't see."
Liss-Riordan, however, appeared to anticipate Uber's rhetorical defense in their filing. In addition to claiming that Uber's practices "cause particular harm to colored people," she referred to Uber's litany of controversy over workers' rights.
"Uber's pattern of exploiting its drivers in the name of the dollar is well documented," she wrote, "and this lawsuit seeks to hold the company accountable for the institutional racism it has embraced and perpetuated."
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