Mistreatment of Workers in the Rideshare Industry, a Story from Seattle

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Lyft, Uber, and other rideshare drivers frequently drive during late night hours when demand is dominated by intoxicated passengers returning home from the bars. These are the most profitable times, but also the most potentially dangerous. Only weeks into her new occupation, Christine, a Lyft driver from the pacific northwest, had already twice faced accusations from drunk passengers claiming she was driving under the influence of alcohol. Industries dominated by customer feedback are notoriously precarious, and Christine’s experiences underline the intersection of gender and class in the mistreatment of workers in the gig economy.

The first passenger attempted to make sexual advances on Christine and likely made the report out of spite for the rejection. Lyft placed Christine’s driver account on hold shortly thereafter. Christine noted that the passenger failed to report the claim to law enforcement first, as they are supposed to. “My account was reinstated later that afternoon,” she said to a group of fellow drivers in the ridesharing business, “but I was left distressed and upset at the fact that ANYONE, AT ANYTIME can make an accusation like this without any proof or evidence…just a simple text with a 1 star rating.”

A week later, another intoxicated passenger became irate when Christine’s phone lost its GPS signal while in an underground tunnel downtown, causing her to miss her exit.  The passenger quickly became belligerent, leading to Christine pulling over and ordering him to leave her car. Immediately following, she rated the passenger one star and left a message for Lyft explaining what happened. “Just like that AGAIN I am deactivated,” this time permanently, apparently, because the passenger had reported her of driving under the influence of alcohol, and also accused her of being in possession of controlled substances.

The reports in both incidents were completely fabricated.  Christine told me that Lyft representatives were “impossible” to work with.  She tried to appeal her deactivation, but they gave her the cold shoulder. She requested evidence, asked how they were conducting their investigation (if we are to believe that Lyft made any effort to investigate at all), and if Lyft would contact any of her previous riders for their experiences.  She asked a Lyft representative several times to confirm if their policy does state that passengers must contact police before filing a report to the company, which he refused to answer.

“I have demanded they reactivate my account by advice of my lawyer or we will being filing a suit against Lyft and said rider for defamation of character and slander. This is not acceptable. If they do not call the police first as instructed by lyft….their accusation should be dismissed and they should be banned from using Lyft services.”

“We are suppose to be Lyft Partners….where is Lyft’s support for us? All they have done is cause me financial and emotional distress.”

Find out more about the struggle for workers rights in the gig economy by following and supporting Working Washington.



Categories: Labor, Uncategorized

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