Uber and Lyft drivers are facing discrimination from customers -- and getting banned from the apps, report finds
By Levi Sumagaysay
Nearly half of deactivated drivers believe they were kicked off the apps due to discrimination, with drivers of color more likely to be banned than white drivers, new driver-backed study finds
Drivers for ridesharing companies like Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. can be kicked off the apps after facing discrimination from riders, a new study has found.
According to the report, which is based on a survey of hundreds of Uber (UBER) and Lyft (LYFT) drivers in California, two-thirds of drivers have been "deactivated" at some point, with 69% of drivers of color and 57% of white drivers having experienced deactivation.
When drivers are deactivated, either temporarily or permanently, they are not offered possible passenger pickups in the apps and therefore cannot earn money.
More than 40% of the drivers who had been deactivated reported that they were told it was because of customer complaints, while 30% of drivers said they weren't given a reason at all. Nearly half, or 45%, of deactivated drivers said they believe they were kicked off the apps due to discrimination -- including because of their race, ethnicity, accent, religion or gender.
The report, published Tuesday by Rideshare Drivers United and the Asian Law Caucus, highlights how the lack of employment protections for gig workers -- whom the companies consider independent contractors -- can lead to what the report called "unfair and arbitrary" consequences.
"Drivers live in constant fear of being fired by an app, called 'deactivation' by the companies," the groups said in a statement. Their recommendations include a call for just-cause protections for drivers.
Drivers need "an appeals process that is independent from the companies," said Nicole Moore, the president of Rideshare Drivers United. She called on elected officials and regulators to help find solutions.
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One Los Angeles-based rideshare driver who spoke during a virtual news conference about the report on Tuesday said, "Customers have been racist to me. They've trashed my car, called me names." The woman, who gave her name as Mimi, said she tried to get Uber to investigate, but that "customer reports about me were taken at face value."
An Uber spokesperson said Tuesday that the company has "a rigorous evaluation process, led by humans, that reviews reports and determines whether temporary or permanent account deactivation is warranted." The spokesperson said the company sends in-app messages to drivers that state the reason for deactivation, allows the drivers to request a review and gives details of how the review process works, and gives drivers the option to upload video, photos or other evidence.
"We know that drivers rely on Uber to earn, so the decision to deactivate a driver's account is one that we do not take lightly," the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Lyft on Tuesday called the report "flawed to its core."
"We strongly condemn discrimination of any kind and are committed to preventing it on our platform," the spokesperson said. "Lyft takes safety reports from riders and drivers seriously and reviews and investigates them to determine the appropriate course of action. This report does not reflect the actual experiences of the majority of drivers."
Ammad Rafiqi, who focuses on the workers' rights program at the Asian Law Caucus and is one of the report's authors, told MarketWatch: "Companies like Uber and Lyft purportedly have a deactivation appeals process, but like our report found, drivers either have no information on how to file an appeal or do not find the appeal process to be meaningful in any way."
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Rafiqi said the Asian Law Caucus worked with Rideshare Drivers United on the report after rideshare drivers requested the group's help at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Drivers were struggling to get unemployment benefits due to their status as gig workers.
"We learned that some of the biggest challenges drivers faced, other than low or inconsistent pay for all hours worked, was what the companies euphemistically call 'deactivation,'" Rafiqi said.
Sixty-eight percent of surveyed drivers were people of color and 25% identified as white, according to the report; 55% were immigrants. The report surveyed 810 drivers from April to July 2022 and included in-depth interviews with 15 current and former app-based drivers in September and October 2022.
The report contains other quotes and anecdotes from drivers who said they were deactivated after canceling rides because riders made racist comments to them, or who saw their ratings affected negatively because riders made false claims against them.
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Drivers recounted being called the N-word or other racial slurs, or told to go back to their country. "I have reported this to Uber, but they don't give a damn," one driver said, according to the report. "They only change it so you don't have to pick up that person anymore. It lowered my ratings and affected my ability to do the work."
Some drivers who were unable to use the apps to earn money reported serious effects on their lives. The report found that 81% of those surveyed used rideshare driving as their primary source of income and that 86% of deactivated drivers suffered some type of hardship, with 18% reporting losing their car and 12% losing their home.
Other states and cities have tried to address deactivations of app-based drivers and couriers. In January, a Chicago City Council member proposed an ordinance to establish a process for deactivations that would include giving a neutral arbitrator the final say in deactivation appeals. New York, New Jersey and Washington state also have some protections in place.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
March 01, 2023 09:19 ET (14:19 GMT)
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