Key Points

  • - Uber may face a lawsuit alleging racial bias in driver ratings.
  • - A judge stated that a lower court made a legal error in dismissing the case.
  • - The plaintiff argues that non-white drivers are more likely to receive poor ratings.
  • - The rating system and passenger bias may violate anti-discrimination laws.
  • - The outcome of the case remains uncertain, but it could have significant implications for Uber and the gig economy.

Uber Technologies Inc may have to confront a lawsuit that claims its policy of terminating drivers with low passenger ratings is racially discriminatory. A judge on a U.S. appeals court panel stated that a lower court made a "legal error" in dismissing the case based on a lack of statistical evidence of bias.

The plaintiff, Thomas Liu, who is Asian-American, argues that passengers are more likely to give poor ratings to non-white drivers, and Uber's use of the rating violates anti-discrimination laws.

The lawsuit

The lawsuit alleges that minority drivers are disproportionately affected by low ratings, leading to their termination by Uber. Uber's rating system asks passengers to rate drivers on a scale of one to five, and drivers with ratings below a certain threshold are deactivated. Liu claims that this rating system, coupled with passenger bias, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California anti-discrimination law.

The U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria had previously granted Uber's motion to dismiss the case, stating that there was no plausible allegation of a statistical disparity among drivers of different races. However, the appeals court judge, Jennifer Sung, argued that it was premature to dismiss the case based on a lack of statistical evidence, as the plaintiff could only obtain that information through the discovery process.

The outcome of the case remains uncertain, as the other two judges on the panel have not indicated their leanings. Uber's lawyer, Andrew Spurchise, maintained that the plaintiff had not shown any statistical disparity in the treatment of drivers and that allowing discovery based on mere possibilities would be improper.

The Case

The case has garnered support from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which argues that the lawsuit should have survived as it cited research showing that customer ratings are likely influenced by bias. The agency believes that the combination of this research and the survey conducted by Liu's lawyers is sufficient to establish a plausible case.

The outcome of this lawsuit could have significant implications for Uber and the gig economy as a whole. It highlights the ongoing challenges surrounding bias and discrimination in the platform-based workforce. The case will continue to be closely watched as it progresses through the legal system.

The Allegations

Thomas Liu, an Asian-American plaintiff, contends that Uber's rating system adversely affects minority drivers, leading to their termination. Uber's practice of deactivating drivers with ratings below a specific threshold, coupled with potential passenger bias, allegedly violates anti-discrimination laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California state laws.

The U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria previously dismissed the case, citing a lack of plausible statistical disparity among drivers of different races. However, appeals court judge Jennifer Sung argued that dismissing the case prematurely due to insufficient statistical evidence was unwarranted, as the plaintiff could only access such information through the discovery process.

Legal Implications

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission supports the lawsuit, citing research suggesting customer ratings are influenced by bias. The agency contends that the combination of this research and a survey conducted by Liu's legal team presents a plausible case.

This lawsuit's outcome could significantly impact Uber and the gig economy, spotlighting persistent challenges concerning bias and discrimination in platform-based workforces. The case remains under close observation as it traverses through the legal system

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.


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About Uber Technologies, Inc


  • Ticker UBER
  • Exchange NYSE
  • Sector Technology
  • Industry Software—Application
  • Shares Outstandng 1,979,920,000
  • Market Cap $137B
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  • Uber Technologies, Inc. develops and operates proprietary technology applications in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia Pacific. It connects consumers with independent providers of ride services for ridesharing services; and connects riders and other consumers with restaurants, grocers, and ot...
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