A woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India is suing the company after reports that several senior executives obtained her medical files and used them to sow doubt about her account of the crime.
The lawsuit alleges that Uber’s former president of business in the Asia Pacific region, Eric Alexander, obtained the woman’s medical records and shared them with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and another senior executive, Emil Michael. The trio reportedly questioned the woman’s account and came up with a theory that a competing ride-hailing service in India, Ola, was somehow involved in the rape allegations.
Alexander was dismissed from Uber after news outlets reported on his handling of the medical files. Michael resigned from the company following a wide-ranging investigation into Uber’s company culture that included harassment and discrimination complaints. Kalanick announced this week that he would take a temporary leave of absence from his company to mourn the death of his mother and to work on his leadership skills.
The lawsuit, first reported by the New York Times, accuses Uber, Alexander, Michael, and Kalanick of defamation and public disclosure of private facts.
“Plaintiff was violated physically when she was brutally raped in Delhi, India by her Uber driver in December 2014. Sadly, in the United States, Uber executives violated her a second time by unlawfully obtaining and sharing her medical records from that vicious sexual assault and have failed, as of the date of this filing, to apologize to her for this outrageous conduct,” the lawsuit says.
The woman, who is named as a Jane Doe in the lawsuit, was raped by an Uber driver in 2014. The driver was convicted and is serving a life sentence. At the time of the incident and throughout the course of the trial, Uber executives were publicly supportive of the victim. When the driver was convicted in 2015, the company said that it was pleased with the verdict, and it settled out of court with the woman.
Her new lawsuit, filed today, says that Uber still holds a copy of her medical records. The suit also emphasizes that Michael, Kalanick, and Alexander had no medical expertise to inform their assessment of the records.
“Only by discrediting Jane Doe’s account of what happened, including her medical records about the rape, could Kalanick, Alexander and Michael have contrived such an irrational and fictitious story about a rival ride-sharing company being involved in her rape account,” the lawsuit says.
An Uber spokesperson told Gizmodo, “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 lawsuit comes in the wake of dozens of sexual harassment and discrimination complaints at Uber. The company recently commissioned two law firms to investigate the complaints, and the broader culture at the company. Investigations into harassment complaints led to the firing of 20 Uber employees, as well as a culture report detailing recommendations for Uber to make its work environment safer and more inclusive.
Update 6/15/17 at 5:00 p.m. ET:
Douglas Wigdor, an attorney for the woman, provided the following statement to Gizmodo.
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. Rape denial is just another form of the toxic gender discrimination that is endemic at Uber and ingrained in its culture. Hopefully, this lawsuit coupled with the changes recommended by the independent counsel will create real change and reform at Uber and elsewhere.