Can Uber Survive Past Mistakes?

Uber’s past issues with a former chief of security are putting its future into question in this week’s news. Also, Uber was ruled to be an employer according to the Swiss courts. What does this mean for drivers? What does it mean for the future of Uber and other court cases around the world? Let’s dive into these issues and more with this week’s roundup with senior RSG contributor Paula Gibbins.

Uber’s Troubled Past Haunts Criminal Case of Former Security Chief (Bloomberg)

Summary: When Joe Sullivan was fired from his job as Uber Technologies Inc.’s security chief, the ride-hailing giant declared a clean break from its problematic past.

Now, five years later, as he faces criminal charges stemming from an alleged coverup of a massive data breach, Sullivan wants to put the company, its current chief executive officer and its prior management team on trial with him.

Fighting charges that he concealed a 2016 theft of personal data of 50 million customers and 7 million drivers, Sullivan claims Uber’s legal department and other managers were aware of the incident before it blew up publicly. He also argues that Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in 2017, had him fired in an effort to close a $9 billion investment deal with SoftBank Group Corp.

As the case heads toward a September trial in San Francisco, prosecutors and Uber are aligned in arguing that Sullivan was a rogue employee. Uber’s attorney accused Sullivan’s lawyers of manufacturing a “conspiracy theory” about the company serving him up to the US Justice Department….

My Take: Obviously, Uber is well established and these transgressions happened so many years ago. Unless a new breach happened, I really don’t see this trial affecting Uber’s future in any significant way.

Uber’s stock may not be worth as much for a short period of time because of the poor publicity, but I don’t see any long-term repercussions, especially since they already made it through this scandal the first time around.

Uber loses appeal as top Swiss court rules company is an employer (Reuters)

Summary: Switzerland’s top court upheld a ruling that ride-hailing company Uber should be treated as an employer, dismissing the company’s attempt to overturn a Geneva court’s verdict.

“According to the Federal Supreme Court, the cantonal court did not rule arbitrarily when it ruled that Uber drivers working in Geneva had an employment relationship with Uber BV. The Federal Supreme Court dismisses the corresponding appeal,” it said in a media release on Friday accompanying the verdict.

The California-based company whose cab service has expanded worldwide stands accused in many countries of bypassing national labour protection standards and shunning collective negotiation with drivers who work on freelance terms.

In a separate ruling on food delivery service Uber Eats, the court upheld an appeal contesting whether the company was a recruitment service, as Geneva authorities had decided in 2019….

My Take: In a lot of ways, this is big news for drivers (whether or not you agree with the idea of being an employee vs independent contractor). If one court rules Uber as an employer, and thereby their drivers as employees, it sets a precedent for other courts to follow suit.

It could mean that more cases will rule on the side of Uber being an employer, which will force Uber to change its business model to suit the court rulings.

Several drivers do not want to be classified as employees for fear of losing their flexibility. Others would rather be considered employees so they could be afforded benefits such as sick leave and healthcare benefits.

Lyft Co-Founder John Zimmer Reveals ‘Overwhelming’ Stress Led to ‘Cycling of Bad Thoughts’ and Depression (People)

Summary: Lyft president John Zimmer knows what it’s like to lose sleep as you stay up at night, worrying over problems that haunt your days.

That’s because it was his draining existence for an extended period of time, the Lyft co-founder, 38, tells PEOPLE.

About seven to eight years ago, Zimmer was living on “very little sleep, very poor-quality sleep,” he recalls. “I could not slow the negative thoughts down.”

Back then, the Connecticut native was involved in a high-stakes rivalry between Lyft and its biggest ridesharing competitor.

“Uber raises [more than] $3 billion from the Saudi government. We recently go from minors to majors,” Zimmer says of the two brands’ early days.

Matters were complicated because his fellow Silicon Valley business had a “very different set of values,” he claims. (There have been a series of legal disputes involving the competitors over the years. In 2017, for example, a group of Lyft drivers filed a class action lawsuit against Uber for allegedly using the software known as “Hell” to track their drivers, according to the Los Angeles Times. Ultimately, the case was dismissed in September 2018. PEOPLE reached out to Uber for comment.)…

My Take: Drivers took to Reddit and responded to this article in a visceral way. Here are a handful of the comments:

“He looks happy in the pic.”

Another said, “He should start driving and experience what we deal with on a daily basis.”

Yet another stated, “I suffer from depression. I just can’t feel sorry for him. Sorry. He has access to treatment for it, I do not.”

And this driver probably summed up the comments best with: “Well, he’s welcome to quit driving being President if he doesn’t like it. We all have to make choices, man.”

Also in the News…

Police arrest man posing as Uber Eats driver after attempted break-in of Miami Shores home (Local 10

Thoughts: You can never be too safe these days. If you haven’t ordered food delivery, do not open your door to someone claiming to be from Uber Eats, or DoorDash, or Instacart, etc. Be safe, not sorry.

Uber Driver Comes to Rescue Transporting Injured Bird: ‘Great Idea’ (NewsWeek)

Thoughts: If I had been this driver, that legit would have been one of my favorite days as a rideshare driver. Nothing would be able to top it.

Viral Uber driver gets $250K for daughter’s chemotherapy (WesternSlopeNow)

Thoughts: I’m going to just keep showing up for these feel-good stories. Bring ‘em on, I love it!

Do you have any fun rideshare news you came across this week? Share in the comments below! 

-Paula @ RSG