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Latina’s Horrifying Uber Kidnapping Story Is A Reminder That Uber’s Vetting Process Is Not Built To Protect Women From Violence

Last year in July, Elizabeth Suarez broke her ankle, wrist and recieved seven staples in her head after she jumped out of a speeding car to escape an Uber driver trying to kidnap her. This week, she spoke with CNN news about the incident after University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson was murdered by a driver pretending to be an Uber driver.

Speaking to CNN Suarez detailed the events of her attack from last year.

UPDATE 9/11/18***: Here’s the exclusive interview I did with KTNV Channel 13 Action News. They included some helpful…

Posted by Liz Martha on Friday, July 13, 2018

After a night of gambling, Elizabeth Suarez says she ordered an Uber on her phone and headed out to the valet where a car drove up and gestured her over. “I said ‘hi are you here for Liz?'” She explained in an interview with CNN.”And hee goes ‘yeah get in.'”

Suarez, who had driven Uber countless times since college, says she didn’t think any thing of it when she got into the car. “We started driving about five minutes later I get a call from my real Uber and he’s like I’m outside of the Uber where are you?”

The realization that she’d gotten into a car with the wrong person sent her into a complete panic. “I didn’t freeze up I knew I had to get out of the situation because he was in full control he could do whatever he wanted and so I just knew get out, get out, keep thinking on my toes. “

After the man pulled her into a deserted parking lot and demanded she give him her wallet and phone, he began to speed up the car. That’s when Suarez jumped out. She broke her wrist, fractured her ankle and winded up in a hospital where she received seven staples to her scalp. Still, she managed to escape an uncertain but potentially lethal fate.

While the murder of Josephson has brought national attention to the kidnappings and sexual assaults by assailants posing as ride-share drivers, thousands of female riders have experienced assault by drivers.

Last year, a woman employee penned a blog post that alleged the company had created an environment where female staffers were subject to sexual harassment. Last month, three Latina employees sued the company over unequal pay. This time, the ride-sharing company has been hit with a lawsuit that alleges they’ve been negligent on incidents of rape and assault experienced by women using their service.

Uber’s latest lawsuit claims that thousands of female riders have experienced abuse at the hands of the company’s employed drivers.

Last year, a lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco, alleges that female riders had endured rape, harassment and assault from drivers who were working as employees under the ride share company.

A portion of the filed complaint claims that the company skips a general vetting process for its drivers in an attempt to maintain high profits. The lawsuit argues that the company has experienced an ongoing harassment and assault problem as a result and has ultimately put thousands of women at risk. The plaintiffs of the lawsuit are looking to open up the suit to a class-action status.

“Uber has done everything possible to continue using low-cost, woefully inadequate background checks on drivers and has failed to monitor drivers for any violent or inappropriate conduct after they are hired,” the complaint reads according to USA Today.

The complaint alleges that Uber has avoided regulations typically placed on transportation companies by labeling themselves as a “technology platform.”

The lawsuit underlines the fact that California drivers using private transportation carriers are typically held to a higher “duty of care,” in terms of monitoring and vetting their operators. Meaning, by law, taxi cab and limousine companies are required to run criminal background checks on their drivers and ensure that they are monitored. Uber, according to the claim, avoids these standards by not being licensed as a private transportation carrier.

In an effort to ensure the safety of future female riders, the complaint is demanding that Uber make “drastic changes” to its policies.

Jeanne Christensen, a lawyer on the case, concluded in a statement reported by USA Today that the company “must come forward with information about how many reports it has received about rapes, sexual assaults and gender-motivated harassment to allow consumers to assess whether Uber really does provide safe rides, especially to women.”

The suit has been brought forward by a victim whose accusations of rape against an Uber driver were confirmed by the driver himself.

The plaintiff, known on court documents as Jane Doe, ordered an Uber ride home in October of 2016 after a night of drinking in Miami-Dade County. She was barely conscious when her driver, Nimer Abdullah, took her up to her apartment and raped her in her own bed. Doe reported the rape to police the next morning and Abdullah was ultimately arrested and charged with two counts of sexual battery. He eventually confessed to police that he had raped Doe and admitted to being aware that she was drunk while he assaulted her. When Doe contacted Uber about the incident, she was told they would be “taking the appropriate action here.” According to her complaint, the company never confirmed that Abdullah had been deactivated from being a driver for the company. To compensate her, they offered to refund her the $9.51 she had paid for her ride.

The other plaintiff in the case is a Los Angeles resident who said she had also been intoxicated when she ordered an Uber in January of this year. On her ride home, her driver sexually assaulted her in his car and then followed her into her home and raped her.

The attacks on the two plaintiffs were avoidable had Uber done its due diligence, but they’re also just two examples of a stream of similar incidents.

Not only does the lawsuit cite various other cases of sexual assault, but it also highlights hundreds of public tweets from women who had complained about Uber drivers during the #MeToo campaign.

CASA- Check, Ask, Share, be Aware

Check the license plate as well as the car’s make and mode and driver’s picture. Ask the driver to identify you by name before you get into the car. NEVER tell the driver your name, have them confirm it. Share your location and picture of license plate with a friend or family member and be aware of your surroundings, driver’s behavior and travel route.


Read: These Three Latinas Suing Uber For Failing To Give Them The Same Wages As Their Male Counterparts Are Feminist Goals

Recommend this story to your friends who use Uber to remind them to stay safe and click the share button below. 

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An ICE Nurse Says That Migrant Women Are Having Hysterectomies Performed Without Their Consent While In Detention Centers

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An ICE Nurse Says That Migrant Women Are Having Hysterectomies Performed Without Their Consent While In Detention Centers

Janis Christie / Getty Images

On Monday, news broke that an ICE detention center in Georgia was performing mass hysterectomies on migrants without their consent. The allegations came from a nurse at the facility along with numerous detained migrants and left many people shocked.

However, the U.S. has a long history of forcing people – especially people of color – into unwanted sterilization, which is a human rights violation and a form of eugenics.

Of course, when it comes to undocumented immigrants, who are regularly referred to as “unwanted” “aliens” by the current president, it’s not so surprising that these practices went unreported for so long. One immigrant in the complaint put it best: “This place is not equipped for humans.”

An ICE nurse and several migrant women allege that a doctor is removing women’s reproductive systems without their consent.

According to the complaint filed Monday by Project South, an Atlanta-based non-profit, a high number of detained immigrant women held at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Ga., are receiving hysterectomies, as well as other “dangerously unhealthy practices” at the prison amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

Dawn Wooten, who worked full-time at the detention center until July, when she was demoted to work as needed, said she and other nurses questioned among themselves why one unnamed gynecologist outside the facility was performing so many hysterectomies on detainees referred to him for additional medical treatment. She alleged about one doctor that “everybody he sees has a hysterectomy,” and that he removed the wrong ovary from one young detainee.

“We’ve questioned among ourselves like, goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out…That’s his speciality, he’s the uterus collector,” Ms. Wooten said in the complaint.

One detainee, interviewed by Project South, likened the center to “an experimental concentration camp,” adding: “It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.”

“If it wasn’t for my faith in God, I think I would have gone insane and just break down and probably gone as far as hurting myself,” the woman said. “There are a lot of people here who end up in medical trying to kill themselves because of how crazy it is.”

The same prison has also come under fire for its medical practices amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Credit: Samuel Corum / Getty Images

Project South said the complaint alleges “jarring accounts from detained immigrants and Wooten regarding the deliberate lack of medical care, unsafe work practices, and absence of adequate protection against Covid-19.”

It summarizes the disclosures Dawn Wooten made to the DHS’s watchdog, and quotes unidentified detainees extensively. Covid-19 complaints included staff refusing to test symptomatic detainees, failing to isolate suspected cases, and not encouraging social-distancing practices.

For their part, ICE says to take the reports with skepticism.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement representative released this statement to Law & Crime News in response to the complaint: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not comment on matters presented to the Office of the Inspector General, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results. That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.”

Women in ICE custody have long been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.

Credit: Getty Stock

Immigrant detention centers have long been accused of subpar medical care. However, the issue has become even worse amid the pandemic. The report filed by Project South describes how migrants are forced to live in unsanitary and unsafe conditions and even thrown into solitary if they advocate for basic human rights. But even before the outbreak, immigrant women’s bodies have always been the target of medical malpractice and cruelty.

ICE has allegedly denied treatment to detained women with cancer, brain tumors, and breast cysts, and it has a history of policing their bodies. The Trump administration has been accused of tracking migrant girls’ periods to prevent them from getting abortions, introduced a policy to deny pregnant women visitor visas, and literally ripped mothers apart from their babies during family separation. Azadeh Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director for Project South, said women held at ICDC have said they are not given clean underwear which leads to infections and rashes.

She said detained women, who are mostly Black and brown, are in extremely vulnerable situations in which “they have no control over their bodies.” “It’s a very exploitative situation,” Shahshahani said of the hysterectomies. “There does not seem to be informed consent … they had pretty much no say in what exactly took place.”

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Uber Says It May Shutdown In California As It Fights Against Gig Worker Law

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Uber Says It May Shutdown In California As It Fights Against Gig Worker Law

Mark Ralston / Getty Images

Is it possible that you won’t be able to get an Uber or Lyft in California? Well, it’s actually very likely that your apps won’t work much longer. The two companies are threatening to go dark in the Golden State as the two fight back against AB5 – a state law that offers protections to gig economy workers.

Uber says that they’ll need to rethink their entire business model if forced to follow AB5, hence the likely shutdown. But many find it suspicious that the company will be shutting down through the November election, when voters will be asked to vote on Prop 22, a ballot measure that would exempt Lyft and Uber from the new regulations.

An Uber shutdown is looking more likely in California as the company plans its response to new state laws.

All the drama started when California (among some other states) started enacting ‘gig worker’ protection laws that were meant to force companies like Uber to reclassify drivers as employees. Currently, drivers are classified as ‘independent contractors’ and are not eligible to receive any benefits, such as healthcare, retirement plans, and overtime.

Uber moved to limit the impact of that law while also admitting that change was needed to better protect their drivers. Not too long after Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi published an op-ed in The New York Times with the headline “Gig Workers Deserve Better,” a San Francisco judge ruled that Uber and Lyft had to reclassify their drivers as employees within 10 days.

In his ruling, Schulman wrote of Uber and Lyft, “It is high time that they face up to their responsibilities to their workers and to the public.” He rejected the argument that Uber and Lyft are simply technology companies, asserting “drivers are central, not tangential, to Uber and Lyft’s entire ride-hailing business.”

Two days later, Khosrowshahi responded with an ultimatum: If Uber had to abide by California labor law, it would require a business model change so extreme the entire company would have to pull out of the state until November. Which is convenient, since California has an initiative in the November election that would overturn much of the state’s gig economy law.

The shutdown would be used to fight back against a recent gig economy law that Uber says would eat away at profits.

Over the last five years, several states have enacted legislation against Uber and Lyft’s operating methods. The companies have come to rely on a tried and tested playbook: threaten to suspend service in the area. The threat, which the companies would sometimes follow through on, appeared designed to rile up customers and drivers, and put more pressure on lawmakers. And it often worked: look at Austin, TX.

Now, both Uber and Lyft say they are once again considering suspending service to get what they want. They say they may suspend their operations in California as soon as this week while simultaneously pushing for a referendum in November to exempt them from the law, known as AB-5.

Although the pandemic has reduced demand, a shutdown would largely impact Black and Brown communities.

Credit: Mark Ralston / Getty Images

Although the companies are planning on going dark in the next week or so, many industry experts don’t think the shutdown will have the impact they hope for. The pandemic has greatly reduced demand for ride sharing as people are staying at home and many more are working from home.

However, much like the pandemic itself, the shutdown would likely have an outsized impact on Black and Latino communities – two groups who have largely come to reply on the companies for commuting to and from work or school. Several studies have shown that Black and Brown workers make up the majority of ‘essential workers’ – so many don’t enjoy the privilege of working from home.

An Uber or Lyft shutdown would force many of these workers back on to buses and trains, further putting already impacted communities under increased risk for contagion of the virus.

The companies are betting on a November ballot initiative to help bail them out from new regulations.

Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images

Although a judge has tried to force the companies to follow the law – the legal system may not have the last word. Uber and Lyft are counting on California’s voters to help them circumvent AB5, which went into effect in January and makes it more difficult for companies to use independent contractors. Uber and Lyft built their respective businesses on the concept of using freelance drivers who aren’t eligible for traditional benefits like health insurance and paid leave. 

Earlier this year, the companies, along with DoorDash, raised nearly $100 million to place a question on the November ballot. They succeeded, and this fall, voters will be asked to permanently classify ride-hailing drivers as independent contractors. The measure, called Proposition 22, also directs the companies to adopt certain labor and wage policies that fall short of traditional employment.

To help build support, the companies are turning to their customers. Lyft has taken a very active approach with urging its customers to vote yes on Prop 22 – they’ve emailed them and added pro-Prop 22 messages to the app. Meanwhile, Uber is considering similar tactics to ones the company used in 2015 in New York, when the company added a pop-up feature in its app to troll the mayor of New York City and encourage the company’s customers to pressure him to back off on proposed legislation that could seriously hamper Uber’s growth efforts in the city. It worked, and Mayor Bill de Blasio relented.

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