The woman who was raped by a driver of Uber while on a trip in Delhi in December 2014 has filed a lawsuit against the company, its founder Travis Kalanick, and two former executives, accusing them of violating her for a second time by “unlawfully” obtaining and sharing her medical records.
The unnamed victim, who resides in Texas, filed the lawsuit in California, where Uber is headquartered, charging Kalanick, former Asia-Pacific head Eric Alexander, and Emil Michael, a former vice-president for business at the taxi-hailing company, of invading her privacy.
“Uber executives duplicitously and publicly decried the rape, expressing sympathy for Plaintiff, and shock and regret at the violent attack, while privately speculating, as outlandish as it is, that she had colluded with a rival company to harm Uber’s business,” said the lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California.
The lawsuit follows a report by ReCode on June 7, and it alleged that Alexander had obtained medical reports of the victim, held them for more than a year, and showed them to Kalanick and other employees.
They were allegedly exploring the possibility that the victim had colluded with Uber’s chief rival, Ola, to derail the company’s growth plans in the country. India is the second-largest market for Uber, after it burnt over $2 billion and lost to local rival Didi Chuxing in China. The lawsuit is likely to increase scrutiny of Uber’s practices in India because the victim’s medical records were taken from Delhi without the authorisation of any court, the police, or the victim herself. “It is shocking that Travis Kalanick could publicly say that Uber would do everything to support our client and her family in her recovery when he and other executives were reviewing illegally obtained medical records and engaging in offensive and spurious conspiracy theories about the brutal rape she so tragically suffered,” said Douglas H Wigdor and Jeanne Christensen, the partners at law firm Wigdor LLP, in a joint statement.
“Rape denial is just another form of the toxic gender discrimination that is endemic at Uber and ingrained in its culture.”
Ola has said if the statements are true, they reflected on the character of the organisation.
“It is a shame that the privacy and morals of a woman have to be questioned in an attempt to trivialise a horrific crime,” Ola said in a statement last week.
“If this report were to be even remotely true, this is an all-time low on morality and a reflection of the very character of an organisation.”
The lawsuit comes at a time when Uber is without a chief executive because earlier this week Kalanick stepped down from the position temporarily. His decision came in the light of the findings of former US Attorney General Eric Holder’s report on the widespread gender inequality and other issues of mismanagement at the company.
Last week Uber had laid off 20 employees in relation to the investigations. The 20 did not include Alexander, which shocked many employees.
ReCode reported that soon after it got in touch with Uber questioning how Alexander had got access to the documents, the company said he was no longer an employee there.