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A look inside Uber’s ‘at risk’ investigations unit

CHICAGO (February 4, 2019) -A recent CNN Business report has shed light on behind-the-curtain operations at Uber and their special investigations unit (SIU), revealing unfortunate circumstances and situations endured by members of the ridesharing company’s internal investigations unit.

As many of us use Uber for commutes to work and jaunts back and forth from watering holes, we blissfully ignore harsh truths that have enveloped the rideshare company’s reputation in recent years. Complaints and incidents of harassment, sexual assault, battery, rape, and other criminal acts have plagued Uber’s commitment to safety in local and national news.

Behind these complaints and incidents is a team of 60 investigators and 15 team leaders that handle more than 1,200 cases a week, per the CNN Business report. Investigators assess a case’s validity – measuring the claims of the driver and the rider – and decide the outcome of the case. In some cases, cases are deemed fraudulent or frivolous. Valid cases are then assigned – most of the time with little information – based on the severity of each claim. More serious charges, such as sexual assault, are handled by more seasoned investigators.

The weight of a case, regardless of what kind of case it is, is not ignored. Just one case could cost the company millions of dollars in lost revenue, which is why the company prefers to keep this part of their business in the background.

Most investigators are underpaid (average pay of $18.50 an hour) and extremely stressed, thanks to the volume and content of Uber’s reported misconduct cases.

According to the report, while many team members love “being associated with a ‘hot’ brand” and its younger employee base, they reported the conditions were so bad at times within the unit that many faced potential mental health risks. Some investigators have experienced such profound stress they required clinical care.

An Uber spokesperson says these types of issues are not uncommon for “fast-paced, crisis-related jobs involving tough issues, such as 911 operators.” In a statement to CNN, the spokesperson said:

[We are] very focused on ways to support our safety response agents, including helping them cope with the stress and challenges of this important job and ensuring we have the right people with the necessary skill sets to manage these sensitive, serious issues.

Per a 26-page confidential internal memo prepared by an outside risk management firm, Uber has taken steps to accommodate investigators’ needs, such as privacy areas for sensitive calls, comfortable seating for long hours, and exercise equipment to help lower stress.

The company has taken steps to further reinforce their commitment to safety with new background check measures for drivers and safety features on the app for riders, such as emergency contact and ride info share, as well as cleaning up other scandals as they prepare for an IPO in 2019.

This blog is part of a running series. Stay tuned for our next blog where we will provide readers with important safety tips for riding with Uber and Lyft.

Patrick A. Salvi

Patrick A. Salvi concentrates his legal practice in several limited areas primarily involving a trial practice in cases concerning serious personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and mass torts. Mr. Salvi has achieved record-breaking jury verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients, including serving as lead counsel in obtaining an Illinois record-high $148 million jury verdict and a Lake County record $33 million jury verdict.

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