Uber was recently sued because a driver allegedly made unwelcome sexually harassing comments to a 16-year-old passenger. The driver apparently pulled over to pick up the teen, who had hailed a ride, and asked the teen if she wanted to get in the front seat. The young woman alleges she felt pressured to do so. The driver allegedly asked her about her virginity and made other inappropriate comments during the ride.
The lawsuit contains allegations of sex discrimination and harassment, negligent hiring, and assault (the fear of an impending unwanted touch).
We don't know what claims will go forward in court or what facts will ultimately be proved, but we do know one thing for sure: an Uber driver picked up an underage rider and proceeded to transport her with no one else present. That alone raises issues for all employers who have drivers, no matter the content of the conversation in the vehicle.
One would think Uber, other rideshare companies, and other employers who use drivers would be concerned with making sure that its drivers only transport people and employees who are 18 or older to protect those passengers, but also to protect drivers from false allegations of child sexual abuse.
For example, a manager who transports an employee who is a minor to a job site has the same risk a taxi driver may have regarding accusations of child sexual abuse. For this reason, employers must make certain that when transporting minors, there is more than one adult present.
It is important to note there are several non-touching behaviors that can be considered child sexual abuse, such as taking photographs of a child in sexual poses or exposing private parts to a child for sexual purposes. Although states have different definitions, child sexual abuse could include intentionally, knowingly, or negligently inflicting physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, abandonment, or emotional/mental injury of a child under age 18. It could include encouraging a child to participate in sex acts.
Employers who offer transportation as part of their services (e.g., hotel vans, intra-resort transportation vehicles, city buses) can benefit from having policies in place that address transportation issues regarding an unaccompanied minor such as requiring two adults be present at all times or requiring a minor to travel with an adult.