Delivery Drivers Can Be Sued for Sexual Harassment (Uber Eats Beware)

Delivery Drivers Can Be Sued for Sexual Harassment (Uber Eats Beware)

There is flirting and then there is this apparently unsolicited text message sent by a Door Dash driver to a Philadelphia woman he just finished delivering food to.  According to the popular website, a Philadelphia woman claims she received the following text message:

“OMG please forgive me for saying this but you are gorgeous.”

Probably not something a delivery driver should say but there is more.

In a second text he said, “And I hope this doesn’t offend you but you the most perfect titties.”

Yeah, very creepy. And illegal.

When we think of sexual harassment, we think of the workplace, but it occurs in many different contexts. At least one airline is saying it will remove passengers who grab flight attendants. Service, airline and hospitality workers already suffer enough, but taking abuse from customers is never okay. In this instance, however, it was the customer who was being harassed.

There is plenty of caselaw on drivers being harassed by customers. A UPS driver sues because of sexual harassment by a customer. An auto parts delivery driver is grabbed on the inner thigh by a customer. What we rarely read about, however, is when the driver is the party harassing a customer.

These incidents are especially disconcerting because the person doing the harassing usually knows where you live. That means Uber and Lyft drivers, cabbies, Grub Hub, Door Dash and pizza delivery persons must be especially careful in what they say and how they behave.

If they don’t, the company that employs them could be held responsible.

Is a jury likely to award the Philadelphia woman much in damages? Probably not. * But if a driver grabs, forces you into an embrace or sexually touches you, the damages could be significant.

*There is no indication the woman who received the unwelcome text message filed a lawsuit. We love her response on Twitter, however. “Like honestly. I can’t even eat my F***ING pizza fries in my own home without some piece of shit man making me feel uncomfortable and unsafe.” Hopefully delivery drivers will heed her message and be more careful in their words.

Steps to Take if You Are Assaulted or Receive Unwanted Text Messages

Even if you don’t think the texts, comments or actions are actionable, consider reporting them to the company. Chances are if you felt uncomfortable, others experienced similar feelings. Reporting the driver in many cases will put an end to the bad behavior.

In the Philadelphia case, the woman did reach out to Door Dash. Like many food and ride share companies, however, it is next to impossible to complain to a live person. One must make a complaint through the app.

Media sources say that Door Dash did respond the next day and said, “We do not condone this type of action and have therefore taken the step in removing them from our platform — they will no longer be able to deliver future orders on DoorDash.”

If you were physically assaulted, hurt or threatened, contact law enforcement. Lawyers can wait, step one is to get whatever care you may need and making sure there is a record of the incident. Especially in the delivery and ride share world, drivers are often transitory. It may be difficult to identify them let alone find them later on.

If you suffered physical injuries or the conduct is so outrageous that it warrants an award of damages, seek legal counsel. As a national law firm and network of attorneys, we concentrate in sexual assault and serious injury cases but there are probably several local attorneys that could help with smaller cases.

If you aren’t sure what to do, call us. We can help you find the answers you need or decide whether you wish to take action. Remember, however, that the window to file sexual harassment claims can be pretty short. (If you are an employee filing a claim against a co-worker, the claims period may just be months.)

Low pay, little or no background checks and no face-to-face supervision makes it easy for bad drivers to be hired. Thankfully most drivers are hardworking people trying to make a living but without the safeguards of a traditional workplace, many bad apples slip through the cracks.

It took several lawsuits before Uber finally started taking passenger safety seriously.

Are the Employers of Delivery and Ride Share Drivers Responsible for Harassment?

That is a trick question. For most companies, drivers are today “hired” as independent contractors. Uber, DoorDash, Postmates and others will claim that they are not the employers. But that doesn’t end the inquiry. Whether or not they employed the offending driver in the strict legal sense doesn’t mean they can’t be held responsible for the driver’s actions.

We say that they hired the driver, screened the driver, trained the driver, supervised the driver, allowed the driver to use their app and paid the driver. If they want to reap the benefits of a network of paid delivery drivers, they must also be responsible for their actions.

If you are bringing a claim for monetary damages, it is essential that the company that employed or contracted for the driver’s services be held responsible. Can the woman in Philadelphia sue the DoorDash driver that sent her a vulgar message? How much can you collect from an unemployed delivery driver? Ditto the person who tries to sue the bike messenger in Manhattan. Are you going to take his beat up bicycle?

In many jurisdictions we can hold the companies responsible. And they should be held responsible. Had they properly screened and supervised their drivers, these problems would not have occurred.

About Mahany Law and Third Party Sexual Harassment

Most law firms concentrate on traditional workplace sexual harassment. We handle these cases as well.

What sets us apart, however, is our concentration on third party harassment cases. These cases are more difficult but from the client’s perspective (you), the harassment is the same. Whether you were assaulted or harassed by a co-worker or a delivery driver or were an employee harassed by a customer, the emotional distress and humiliation is the same.

No matter who does the harassing, call us first. (Our practice is limited to serious injury, repeated sexual misconduct or sexual assault.)

To learn more, visit our sexual harassment FAQ page. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone 888.249.6944. All inquiries kept confidential.


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