California cities probe Uber over treatment of trans drivers

Does Uber discriminate against transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming drivers?

City prosecutors in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego sent the ride-hailing company a letter on Wednesday asking it to explain its policies regarding those drivers and advise it of potential legal ramifications. Uber responded in a statement that it takes the concerns seriously.

“Transgender drivers shouldn’t have to navigate a bureaucratic mess to make a living,” said San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu.

The letter from the three city attorneys follows a Los Angeles Times investigation into Uber’s treatment of transgender drivers.

The survey said it blocked drivers whose government IDs do not match their current photos and gender identities, despite numerous attempts by drivers to explain. Additionally, transgender drivers using food delivery service Uber Eats said it often displays a “dead name” (the pre-transition name they no longer use) instead of the name they had chosen, which in fact unmasked them.

“When a driver has a dead name, it can put them in a potentially dangerous situation,” Chiu said. “Uber must do everything possible to protect its drivers from workplace violence.”

Uber said in a statement that it has taken several steps to address the issues, including training its staff in empathy and respect.

“We have developed a process, with input from the National Center for Transgender Equality, that allows drivers to display the name of their choice in the Uber app,” Uber said. “We are reviewing the letter from city attorneys and look forward to continuing our collaboration to ensure our platform is an inclusive experience for all.”

Uber said more than 1,800 transgender drivers had changed their names in its app, but sometimes those requests were misdirected. He said he has a $60,000 fund to help drivers update their names and genders on state and federal IDs and records.

City attorneys said Uber could be held liable under various anti-discrimination and workplace safety laws if it fails to protect the safety of transgender drivers or denies them the opportunity to work.

“We have many questions about whether Uber’s promises have actually led to better treatment for transgender drivers,” Chiu said.

Carolyn Said is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @csaid

Bernard P. Love