Uber has reached an agreement with a California regulator that will significantly reduce the company’s fine for failing to hand over data on sexual assault incidents on its platform.
After Uber (UBER) failed to comply with a request for sexual assault data, the California Public Utilities Commission fined the company $59 million and threatened to suspend its license to operate in the state in December 2020. According to a proposed agreement filed Thursday, the fine has been reduced to just $150,000.
The reduced fine is part of a larger agreement reached after months of negotiations between Uber, the CPUC’s Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division, and the nonprofit Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. The agreement must be approved by both an administrative law judge and the CPUC.
Uber has agreed to provide anonymized data on sexual assault incidents as part of the agreement, and individuals who report such incidents will be able to opt-in to be contacted by the CPUC in the future. Uber will also contribute more money to the cause, agreeing to donate $5 million to the California Victims Compensation Board, which helps victims of violence in the state, and $4 million to industry-wide efforts, such as developing best practices for classifying, reporting, and responding to these types of incidents. (Uber has agreed to pay the CPUC’s Fiscal Office a total of $9 million.)
Future comprehensive data requests related to sexual violence should be issued to the entire industry, not just Uber or any one company, according to the agreement.
“We’ve been able to find a path forward that preserves the privacy and agency of sexual assault survivors,” Tony West, senior vice president and chief legal officer at Uber, said in a statement. “We look forward to continued collaboration with the Commission to shine a light on this societal issue and help set the standard.”
The CPUC stated that the settlement could still be rejected or alternative terms proposed by the commissioners.
The investigation was sparked by Uber’s December 2019 safety transparency report, which the company promised to release following a CNN investigation into sexual assault and abuse by ride-hailing drivers. Uber received nearly 6,000 reports of sexual assault on its platform in 2017 and 2018, according to the safety transparency report, which the company plans to release every two years. Uber revealed that 1,243 reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment were filed in California, accounting for 21% of all complaints.
The CPUC demanded that Uber provide more information about the assaults, such as the date, time, and location of each assault, the identity of each witness, and the name and contact information of the person to whom they reported the assaults at the time. Uber appealed the fine because it objected to the release of data, which it claimed could retraumatize survivors. (As part of the deal, Uber agreed to keep the names of employees who worked on the report under wraps.)
Lyft, which promised to release a report as well, has yet to do so. Last month, when asked for an update on the report’s status, a Lyft spokesperson said the company was waiting for the Uber-CPUC dispute to be resolved before releasing it.