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Girls & Women

Rape Victim Sues Uber Executives Amid Ongoing Crisis Over Company’s Treatment of Women

Flickr/Daniel Incandela

On Thursday, a woman who was raped by her Uber driver in 2014 announced that she is suing the $70 billion dollar company. She claims that senior Uber executives “violated her a second time” after they obtained her medical records and used them to tarnish her credibility.

The lawsuit targets Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (who is currently on an indefinite leave of absence), and former senior executives Eric Alexander and Emil Michael for allegedly violating her privacy and defaming her character.

The woman, a Texas resident who remains known as Jane Doe, was raped by her Uber driver while in India in 2014. The driver — who was hired by the Uber despite being described by local media as a sex offender — has now been convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison. The case originally led to Uber being temporarily banned in Delhi.

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The victim also sued Uber in 2015 for negligence and fraud. The original lawsuit was reportedly settled for around $3 million.

After it was reported that the attacker, Shiv Kumar Yadav, had a history of sexual assault charges, Uber faced criticism for providing insufficient background checks for their employees.

Yadav’s reputation was well-known. His neighbor, Kushun Singh, once told the Indian newspaper the Hindustan Times that the driver was “ a compulsive sex offender. You won’t find a single household in the village whose woman he hadn’t teased or molested. I know no less than 26-27 cases that never reached police.”

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At the time of the attack, Uber released a statement expressing support and sympathy for the victim. Kalanick said in the statement: “We will do everything, I repeat, everything to help bring this perpetrator to justice and to support the victim and her family in her recovery.”

Behind the scenes though, Uber’s approach to the incident reportedly wavered from the sincerity of their public statement. Eric Alexander allegedly went to India in the days following the attack, obtained the victim’s medical records, and discussed them with Kalanick and Michael, the company’s president of business.

As reported by Recode, the three men then discussed the medical records and came up with a theory that the victim was attempting to damage Uber’s reputation as a part of a conspiracy by Uber’s Indian rival, a company called Ola.

Doe’s lawyer claims that the Uber executives obtained her medical records illegally, calling it “shocking” that Alexander and other executives used the records to concoct “spurious conspiracy theories about the brutal rape she so tragically suffered.”

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Over the past month, all three targets of Jane Doe’s lawsuit have left their jobs one way or another. Alexander, who originally obtained the medical records was fired on June 6th as a result of his handling of the incident. Michael left on Monday after pressure from the board of directors. The next day, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick began an indefinite leave of absence.

As Uber has tried to deal with its reputation for treating women unfairly in recent weeks, it has continued to make public missteps. On Tuesday, David Bonderman, one of the company’s board members, resigned after audio leaked of him making a sexist remark during a meeting which was ironically called to address Uber’s much-needed corporate cultural makeover.

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An Uber spokesman said on Thursday: "No one should have to go through a horrific experience like this, and we're truly sorry that she's had to relive it over the last few weeks." According to The New York Times, spokespeople for Kalanick and Alexander declined to comment on the incident, and Mr. Michael did not respond to a request for comment.