Uber and Lyft drivers in California say they’ve been spontaneously fired by the apps, according to the report
Some Uber and Lyft drivers in California have a new fear. One day they dread getting in their car to start a shift and their employer letting them know they’ve been fired.
A new report suggests there is reason for that fear.
According to data released this week by the Asian Law Caucus and Rideshare Drivers United, the drivers’ union, two-thirds of Uber and Lyft drivers in California have experienced app deactivation, and among those surveyed, the deactivation disproportionately affected people of color. .
30 percent of drivers said they were not given an explanation as to why they were let go. Forty-two percent said the app referenced customer complaints.
“The reality is that app-based drivers can now be kicked out by an app, not a human,” said Winnie Kao, a lawyer at the Asian Law Caucus who worked on the report. “That you could wake up one day and try to turn on the app to go to work and you’d just be blocked. Hearing the drivers’ stories about this was very worrying and very upsetting.”
In a statement to NBC News, an Uber spokesperson denied this, saying the deactivation process was overseen by human representatives who conduct a thorough evaluation before making the decision.
“We know that drivers rely on Uber for earnings, so we do not take the decision to deactivate driver accounts lightly,” the spokesperson said. “Unless there is a serious emergency or security threat, we will give drivers multiple warnings before permanently deactivating their account. We provide drivers with the opportunity to appeal eligible deactivations, including by submitting additional photographic or video evidence.”
A representative for Lyft says the report is inaccurate.
“We strongly condemn all forms of discrimination and are committed to preventing it on our platform,” the representative said. “This report is fundamentally flawed with a preconceived conclusion that is not based on facts. Lyft takes safety reports from riders and drivers seriously, reviews and investigates them to determine the appropriate course of action. This report does not reflect the actual experience of the majority of drivers.”
More than 800 drivers across California completed the survey, the majority of whom are immigrants and people of color. Many reported experiencing discrimination, harassment and abuse while driving. Half of the drivers said they had experienced racism, and 43% said they had faced sexual harassment on the job.
According to the report’s authors, the common thread connecting most of these stories was that the drivers themselves feared they would face disciplinary action because of customer complaints. 50 percent of drivers surveyed who experienced racism when using ridesharing said they were also complained about by racist customers.
According to the survey, drivers of color were deactivated significantly more often than white drivers. Nearly 70% of drivers of color experienced temporary or permanent deactivation, compared to 57% of white drivers. Some of the drivers who responded to the survey said they were worried that racist passengers could end their jobs on a whim with a false complaint.
“Customer input can have such an impact on whether drivers can continue to use these apps or whether they can continue to work and receive their pay or benefits,” Kao said. “There are so many discriminatory and biased interactions going on that are completely unchecked.”
Rideshare apps that use those complaints to determine whether drivers can do their jobs could be a problem, Kao said. The stories we heard illustrate how necessary basic safeguards are in all workplaces, including carpooling.
“Drivers must have all the basic occupational health and safety protections afforded to workers classified as employees,” he said. “Some basic things like the right to a safe and healthy workplace, freedom from discrimination, the right to a workplace free from retaliation and with safety net measures. I mean, it should apply to all workers, regardless of their status.”
The vast majority of disabled respondents said it had caused a huge amount of damage to their lives; 86% said they experienced difficulties as a direct result. Eighteen percent lost their car; 12% lost their homes.
“These are not isolated incidents,” Kao said. “These experiences are widespread. This is a systemic problem.”