Uber fires ethnic minority drivers based on a 'racially-biased' star-rating system - new lawsuit claims
- A former Uber driver has filed a lawsuit against the taxi firm, accusing it of "intentional race discrimination" by user star-ratings to fire drivers.
- Uber dismissed the driver, Thomas Liu, from San Diego, in 2015 because his star rating fell below 4.6. Liu claims passengers rated him unfairly because of his race.
- The company has fired "likely hundreds, if not thousands" of ethnic minority Uber drivers because of its star-rating policy, the lawsuit claimed.
- "Uber's use of this system to determine driver terminations constitutes race discrimination, as it is widely recognised that customer evaluations of workers are frequently racially biased," the lawsuit said.
- Uber told Forbes that "ridesharing has greatly reduced bias for both drivers and riders, who now have fairer, more equitable access to work and transportation than ever before."
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A former Uber driver filed a lawsuit against the taxi app on Monday, claiming it discriminates against ethnic minority drivers by firing workers based on a "racially-biased" rating system.
Former Uber driver Thomas Liu, from San Diego, filed the class-action lawsuit over his dismissal from the company in 2015. He was fired because riders gave him unfair app ratings because of his race, his lawsuit claimed.
Uber customers can rate drivers on a one-to-five-star scale after each ride. To stay working for Uber, drivers must meet a minimum average rating — when Liu was dismissed in 2015, the required rating in San Diego was 4.6.
"Uber's use of this system to determine driver terminations constitutes race discrimination, as it is widely recognised that customer evaluations of workers are frequently racially biased," the lawsuit said.
Customers were "hostile" towards him, Liu said. They canceled their cab order after seeing his photo, or asked where he was from "in an unfriendly way," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit accused Uber of violating federal civil rights and says the company is "liable for intentional race discrimination."
"Likely hundreds, if not thousands" of ethnic minority Uber drivers across the US have been terminated because of Uber's rating policy, the lawsuit said.
"Uber itself has recognised the racial bias of its own customers," the lawsuit added, referring to how Uber had previously defended its lack of tipping function by saying passengers may discriminate against non-white drivers.
Liu filed the lawsuit "on behalf of all minority Uber drivers across the country who have been terminated based upon Uber's star rating system," he said.
Liu first filed a complaint in 2016 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who dismissed the claim this August.
Liu is now bringing it to a federal court in San Francisco, represented by attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan. Known as "Sledgehammer Shannon," she has filed several hundred successful lawsuits against gig-economy companies including FedEx, American Airlines, and Starbucks on behalf of their staff. Liss-Riordan first took on Uber in late 2012 – and won.
The lawsuit asked the federal court to demand Uber stops terminating staff based on star ratings. It also asked Uber to pay compensatory damages including back pay, as well as damages for emotional distress and Liu's attorney fees.
The lawsuit is "peculiarly timed" because the case is more than five years old, an Uber spokesperson told Forbes.
"Ridesharing has greatly reduced bias for both drivers and riders, who now have fairer, more equitable access to work and transportation than ever before," it added.
Uber did not immediately reply to Business Insider's request for comment.
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