A woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India is suing the company for a second time, alleging that Uber executives got her private medical records and made false statements claiming she fabricated the attack.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in a California federal court seeks unspecified damages on behalf of the woman, who is identified only as Jane Doe.
The allegations compound a long string of image problems for the ride-hailing company, whose CEO took a leave of absence earlier this week after an investigation found a dysfunctional culture that allowed sexual harassment. Twenty employees have been fired, and this week a board member was forced to step down after making a sexist remark at an employee meeting.
The new lawsuit says Uber executives falsely portrayed the woman as a liar who made up the 2014 rape in collusion with a competing service seeking to undermine Uber’s business. But the driver was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison. The first lawsuit was settled in 2015, before the allegations regarding the woman’s medical records surfaced last week.
San Francisco-based Uber issued a statement Thursday that didn’t deny the allegations. “No one should have to go through a horrific experience like this, and we’re truly sorry that she’s had to relive it over the last few weeks,” the company said.
The new lawsuit alleges that shortly after the rape, Eric Alexander, then Uber’s vice president for business in Asia, got the woman’s medical records after a meeting with police in New Delhi. Alexander showed them to Emil Michael, then vice president of business, and CEO Travis Kalanick “so that he (Alexander) could attempt to defame and undermine her very serious allegations of sexual assault and rape,” the lawsuit says.
Alexander was dismissed from Uber this month after media reports about the medical records, the lawsuit said. Michael left Uber on Monday. Kalanick, who has said he must grow up and needs management help, has taken an indefinite leave. His mother was killed and father was hurt in a May boating accident.
The lawsuit alleges that Kalanick stated publicly after the rape that Uber would support the woman and her family, then put out false conspiracy theories about the woman.
“Rape denial is just another form of the toxic gender discrimination that is endemic at Uber and ingrained in its culture,” said Douglas Wigdor, a New York attorney who represents the woman.
At the time of the rape, the woman lived in New Delhi, but now she lives in Texas, according to the lawsuit.