(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Judge fines Uber $59 million, threatens license in California over assault data

California regulators issued a $59-million fine to Uber and threatened to suspend the company’s operating license in a Monday ruling. At issue: the company’s ongoing refusal to hand over detailed sexual assault data.

Uber has spent a year stonewalling state regulators’ requests for additional information on sexual harassment or assault claims made by its customers and drivers. The requests first came when the company disclosed in a December 2019 report that it had received roughly 6,000 reports of sexual assault in the United States over the course of two years.

The California Public Utilities Commission ordered Uber to turn over descriptions of every sexual misconduct claim that occurred in California from 2017 to 2019, as well as the names and contact information of any witnesses — including victims — and Uber employees who received the reports.

Uber has thus far refused these requests. Citing letters that victims rights groups filed with regulators, the company has argued that public disclosure of victims’ information could put their privacy at risk, potentially traumatizing or endangering them.

In Monday’s order, Administrative Law Judge Robert M. Mason III of the California Public Utilities Commission said Uber’s concerns were “premature,” considering regulators previously pledged in a January ruling to keep identifying information of victims and witness under seal.

Nonetheless, Mason said in the order that Uber should work with agency staff to provide anonymous information and “develop a code or numbering system as a substitute for the actual names and other personally identifiable information requested.”

The judge said in the 92-page Monday order that if Uber does not release the information the state asked for and pay the fine within 30 days, the court would suspend its license to operate in California.

Uber spokesman Andrew Hasbun objected to the Monday ruling.

“The CPUC has been insistent in its demands that we release the full names and contact information of sexual assault survivors without their consent. We opposed this shocking violation of privacy, alongside many victims’ rights advocates,” Hasbun said in a statement. “Now, a year later, the CPUC has changed its tune: we can provide anonymized information — yet we are also subject to a $59 million fine for not complying with the very order the CPUC has fundamentally altered.”

Uber has 30 days to appeal, according to the ruling.

-Los Angeles Times

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