Lyft just announced that it will add several new features for passenger safety, including mandatory sexual harassment training for drivers, in response to a spate of sexual assault and rape allegations filed last week against the rideshare giant in San Francisco.
According to an email sent to Lyft users on September 10, drivers will now be required to comply with continuous DMV monitoring and a mandatory sexual violence training program in partnership with Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Prior to this announcement, sexual harassment training was available, but not required for drivers.
“Lyft is expanding our Community Safety program to bring riders and drivers greater protection and peace of mind,” said Lyft’s president John Zimmer in a statement. “Safety is the cornerstone of all healthy communities, and it’s one of the key values Lyft was founded on. We don’t take lightly any instances where someone’s safety is compromised, especially in the rideshare industry, including the allegations of assault in the news last week.”
“The reality is that certain populations carry a disproportionate burden simply trying to get to work or back home after a night out—in the U.S., one in six women will face some form of sexual violence in their lives," he continued. "The onus is on all of us to learn from any incident, whether it occurs on our platform or not, and then work to help prevent them.”
In recent months, Lyft and Uber drivers have organized protests, caravans, strikes, and actions drawing national attention to their grueling working conditions, low wages, and both companies’ refusal to recognize them as employees. While these new safety features address increasing concern that passengers, particularly women, cannot ride safely on Lyft, the requirements will also put drivers under increased surveillance and mandate that they devote more time to their jobs.
Coincidentally, a vote on a California bill, known as AB5, that would classify roughly 200,000 Lyft and Uber drivers as employees is expected this week. The bill would require that the companies provide drivers with basic labor protections, including sick days, worker’s compensation, disability pay, overtime pay, and breaks that they currently do not provide. It would also allow drivers to unionize.
In recent months, Lyft has devoted significant resources to lobbying against the bill in California’s state legislature, arguing that drivers are not employees because of their flexibility: they can work where and when they choose. The company has sent drivers in-app notifications telling them to oppose the legislation, and said it would spend $30 million to put the bill on the 2020 ballot in California in order to overturn it if it passes.
Other new features announced today include smart trip check ins, which require the app to reach out to passengers and drivers for support if a trip takes longer than usual, a panic button for both drivers and riders to call 911 on the home screen during a ride without leaving the app, and a promise not to re-match passengers with the same drivers if they rate them three stars or fewer. Since the start of 2019, Lyft has added 14 new safety features, including continuous background checks on drivers and other anti-fraud measures.
The recent class action lawsuit involving 14 women was not the first time women have sued Lyft for sexual assault. On August 1, seven women separately sued Lyft for incidents of rape and sexual harassment on the platform. A law firm representing those seven women says it has opened more than 100 cases involving sexual assault and harassment on Lyft and Uber this year alone.