City attorneys in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego questioned Uber Technologies Inc’s treatment of transgender drivers and called on the company to explain how it verifies accounts for transgender drivers, a move prompted by a Times story that illustrated barriers that drivers faced during the process.
Uber’s conduct may violate several anti-discrimination and workplace safety laws city attorneys are empowered to enforce, the attorneys said in a letter to Uber. The letter and a statement from Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer’s office cited the Dec. 10 story published in The Times, which was based on the accounts of transgender and nonbinary people, some of whom lost work as drivers for Uber or were unable to get approval to sign up.
For the record:
12:24 p.m. Feb. 3, 2022An earlier version of this story said an Uber spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Times had not contacted the spokesperson when the story was published; Uber’s statement is now in the story.
“Uber tries to talk a good game when it comes to LGBTQ equality, but we have serious questions about whether it is failing transgender drivers,” Feuer said in a statement. “We intend to find out if reported incidents are isolated mistakes or part of a larger pattern that locks some transgender drivers out of rideshare opportunities.”
The Times found that Uber at times permanently banned transgender and nonbinary people from working for the platform by treating their photos and documents as fraudulent and suspending their accounts. Multiple efforts by drivers to address the issues with the company were unsuccessful: Blocked applicants told The Times they spent hours messaging and calling the company’s support desk to no avail.
“We are writing to notify Uber of the potential legal ramifications of maintaining policies that endanger or disadvantage transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming drivers, and to provide Uber with an opportunity to explain any corrective actions it has implemented in the wake of these revelations of mistreatment,” the letter to the company reads.
San Francisco City Atty. David Chiu said in the statement that shielding drivers from workplace violence and ensuring equal opportunity to work is “non-negotiable.”
San Diego City Atty. Mara W. Elliott called the treatment of drivers detailed in The Times’ report “unconscionable.”
An Uber spokesperson said the company is reviewing the city attorneys’ letter and will continue to collaborate “to help ensure our platform is an inclusive experience for everyone.”
“We recognize that for transgender and nonbinary drivers and delivery people, the name and photo on their ID does not always reflect their true identity, and we take their concerns seriously,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Uber previously said it was working to reactivate accounts The Times inquired about.
The Times report recounted the experiences of several drivers who were blocked when they attempted to update their profile information, prompted by Uber June Pride month initiatives meant to improve the experience for LGBTQ people using the platform.
The company has also said it worked with the National Center for Transgender Equality on a process that allows drivers to display their chosen name in the app, and to train staff to handle related requests.
Drivers interviewed by The Times also recounted barriers they faced from Uber Eats when attempting to display their chosen name instead of their “deadname” — the birth name they no longer use after transitioning genders — raising safety concerns.
Drivers continued to face similar problems after Uber promised to undertake a review of and correct issues related to the deactivation of transgender drivers in a July 2021 letter to the ACLU of Southern California, The Times reported.
“Drivers should not have to put themselves in danger or navigate a bureaucratic nightmare just to make a living,” Chiu said in the statement.