Uber warned it could face discrimination probe after trans drivers suspended

After a newspaper investigation exposed the barriers faced by transgender drivers working for Uber, Californian city attorneys have written to the ride-sharing app demanding clarification.

Last year, an investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that some trans and non-binary drivers have had their accounts suspended due to Uber’s verification processes.

Trans and non-binary drivers recalled that their post-transition photos were rejected as “fraudulent”, leading to account suspension and even permanent bans for some. Many struggled to reactivate their accounts through Uber’s appeal process, despite spending hours attempting to resolve the issue.

Some also found it very difficult to request a name change from Uber, forcing them to display their deadnames. This left drivers with the fear that they could be outed to their clients, which was especially worrying given the high levels of transphobic violence in recent times.

City attorneys from Los Angeles, San Fransisco and San Diego came together to demand clarification from Uber. In their letter, the attorneys argue that Uber’s alleged conduct as described in the Times’ investigation could “give rise to liability under various anti-discrimination and workplace safety laws that we are empowered to enforce through California’s Unfair Competition Law”, such as “failing to protect transgender drivers from violence and harassment”.

Whilst Uber has released various statements promising to makes the process for appeals and name changes easier for trans and non-binary drivers, many continue to face barriers.

In the letter, the city attorney request Uber to provide information about their background checks and verification processes, as well as the appeal processes transgender drivers can seek. They also ask Uber to provide clarification on the name change process for transgender drivers, and what sort of training is offered to staff who deal with such reviews.

In a statement, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said: “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.

“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.”

In response to the original Times investigation, Uber said that ensuring profile photos match government IDs is part of fraud prevention measures and that it was working to reactive the accounts that were deactivated.

“On occasion, requests can be misrouted and result in a regrettable customer experience which we are working to address,” spokesman Zahid Arab told the paper.

Arab said Uber is working to improve its processes “to help ensure the background check process runs as expected for transgender and non-binary users”, and regrets any “confusion and pain”. He said that staff are trained “to handle all requests with compassion, empathy, and respect”.

In response to the attorneys’ letter, Uber said: “We recognize that for transgender and non-binary 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 company said it is reviewing the attorneys’ letter and will continue working “to help ensure our platform is an inclusive experience for everyone”.