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Number of ride-hailing drivers removed for sexual misconduct complaints on the rise

An Uber spokeswoman said a broadening of standards for what constitutes sexual misconduct, including asking a rider out on a date, helps account for a rise in drivers being fired for such behavior.

Uber and Lyft are two ride-hailing companies that operate in Chicago.
Uber and Lyft are the two main ride-hailing companies that operate in Chicago.
Associated Press

As the number of ride-hailing drivers working in Chicago has shot up in recent years, the number of drivers who’ve been deactivated — meaning fired — for sexual misconduct allegations has also steadily risen.

There were 66 drivers deactivated after such allegations in 2016 and 67 in 2017.

That number climbed to 88 in 2018 and then, in the first nine months of 2019, rose to 116.

The Chicago Sun-Times got a look at the number of drivers deactivated for public safety reasons following a Freedom of Information request to the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, which regulates ride-hailing companies.

The increase occurred as the number of ride-hailing drivers working in Chicago soared.

Ride-hailing drivers taken off the road for public safety reasons

Year Criminal complaint or arrest Criminal investigation Sexual misconduct Traffic accident Drug possession or use Assault or battery
Year Criminal complaint or arrest Criminal investigation Sexual misconduct Traffic accident Drug possession or use Assault or battery
2016 11 0 66 137 73 13
2017 18 2 67 32 45 19
2018 8 4 88 67 148 25
2019 12 1 116 34 41 27

In March 2015 there were 15,012 active drivers (defined as someone who makes four or more trips a month).

By December 2017, that number mushroomed to 64,122. By June of this year, that number ticked up to 68,135.

Chicago is the only city that requires ride-hailing companies to notify city regulators within 48 hours of deactivating a driver due to public safety concerns — a mandate that began in 2016, according to Isaac Reichman, a spokesman for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

The notification comes in the form of an email containing only the driver’s name and the category the public safety complaint that merited deactivation falls under.

Specifics about what behavior landed a driver in trouble are not shared.

Protocol then requires city regulators to immediately relay the notification to other ride-hailing companies in Chicago that might employ the same driver.

City involvement, however, ends there.

It’s incumbent upon individual ride-hailing companies to look into matters further.

Reichman declined to speculate why deactivations tied to complaints of sexual misconduct have risen sharply.

Uber, Lyft and Via are the three ride-hailing companies that operate in Chicago.

Uber spokeswoman Kayla Whaling, in an emailed statement, said changes the company made in response to the city’s notification policy have contributed to the increase in sexual misconduct deactivations.

“Since Chicago has required [ride-hailing companies] to notify them after a driver has been deactivated for safety reports, we have expanded our threshold to go beyond the criteria and include driver deactivations for a wide range of reports — from a report of an inappropriate conversation to asking a rider on a date and to more serious incidents,” she said.

Lyft spokeswoman Campbell Mathews pointed to the increase in overall drivers to explain the increase in drivers deactivated for public safety reasons.

In an emailed statement, she said: “Safety is fundamental to Lyft. We are committed to rooting out any potential bad actors on our platform while engaging collaboratively with the BACP to ensure the safety of riders and drivers in Chicago.”

A message left with Via was not returned.