California Public Utilities Commission Imposes $59 Million Penalty Against Uber for Violating Rulings Regarding Sexual Assault and Harassment Claims


By Madison Orcutt

On December 14, 2020, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) with the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”), Robert Mason III, issued a Decision in its ongoing Rulemaking Proceeding R.12-12-011, fining Uber $59 million for failing to comply with earlier rulings dated December 19, 2019, and January 27, 2020. The prior Rulings required Uber to provide information regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment claims arising out of its California transportation network company passenger services.

In the December 19, 2019 Ruling, the Commission ordered Uber to file a copy of its U.S. Safety Report for 2017–2018 and answer questions regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment claims relevant to Uber’s California transportation operations. Among other things, Judge Mason sought details regarding each incident of sexual assault and sexual misconduct that occurred in California in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

On January 10, 2020, Uber filed a copy of its U.S. Safety Report along with a Motion for Reconsideration of the December 19, 2019 Ruling. To support its Motion, Uber cited the sensitivity of the data requested by the CPUC. On January 27, 2020, the assigned ALJ issued a Ruling denying Uber’s Motion for Reconsideration. On January 30, 2020, Uber filed its Response to the December 19, 2019 Ruling. In Uber’s Response, the company stated that it received 1,243 reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment within California which were included in the U.S. Safety Report. Uber’s Response also objected to a number of Judge Mason’s questions. Soon thereafter, Uber filed a second Motion for Reconsideration and a Motion for Stay.

At issue in Judge Mason’s December 14, 2020 Decision was Uber’s refusal to answer the following questions first posed in the December 19, 2019 Ruling: the identity of the persons involved in drafting and approving the U.S. Safety Report (questions 1.1., 1.2., and 1.4.) and specific data regarding the contours of the sexual assault and harassment complaints occurring in California (questions 2.4.1., 2.4.2., 2.4.3., and 2.4.4.). Judge Mason ultimately concluded that Uber refused, “without any legitimate legal or factual grounds,” to comply with the December 19, 2019 and January 27, 2020 Rulings. Judge Mason then fined Uber $59,085,000 and noted that Uber had thirty days from the issuance of this Decision to pay the penalty amount in full and comply with the 2019 and 2020 Rulings. The Decision further noted that Uber’s permits to operate as a Transportation Network Company and a Charter-party Carrier would be suspended if Uber failed to perform these tasks by the thirty-day deadline.

On January 11, 2021, the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (“RAINN”) filed an Appeal before the CPUC. RAINN opposed the CPUC’s data request even after it was amended to permit Uber to submit incident-level information under seal because “that does not obviate the need to honor survivors’ informed consent when reporting sexual assault to government agencies.” On January 13, 2021, Uber filed an Appeal before the CPUC arguing that the Commission “cannot, on the one hand, acknowledge that victims of sexual assault are entitled to protect their personal information but simultaneously impose an extraordinary $59 million fine on Uber . . . for raising the need for such protections.” At this writing, the Commission has not issued a Decision on the Appeal.


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