BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A civil rights
organization warned Uber Eats
that its app profiles put transgender
drivers at risk of harassment and violence, prompting the company to apologize to a Kansas
man and resolve issues within the app that exposed him on Tuesday.
The decision came after the American Civil Liberties Union
of Kansas released a letter to the food
delivery service the day before on behalf of Laine Repic
, a 41-year-old transgender man from Topeka, Kansas, who has been driving
for the company since April
of Kansas claimed that Uber Eats forced Repic to have his app profile display his legal name, which he no longer uses and does not match his male gender presentation, effectively outing him as transgender, and that this has made him fearful for his safety when delivering food to customers.
“Having to, like, drive around with that name following you everywhere from customers was nerve-racking and scary, and we shouldn’t have been put in that position — especially when it was such a simple fix,” Repic said by phone Tuesday.
Repic stated that he contacted the ACLU because he needed someone to have his back, and Uber did not appear to be willing to do so.
“While no one was physically, violently attacking me, these microaggressions eat at you over and over and over again... I shouldn’t have to tell my life story and I shouldn’t have to be forced back into the closet because of that. It wears on you, it’s draining, tiring, and demeaning because it feels like you’re not being taken seriously.
Uber apologized to Repic in an emailed statement to The Associated Press
on Tuesday afternoon for the difficulties he encountered while attempting to change his profile within the app, which it said were now resolved.
“We recognize that the name on their ID does not always reflect their true identity for transgender and non-binary drivers and delivery people
,” the company said, “which is why we recently announced they can choose to display their self-identified first name, rather than their legal name.”
The company also stated that it is working to improve its systems and has established a fund to assist drivers and delivery personnel in covering the cost of updating their name and gender on state and federal identification cards.
The AP read the company's statement to Repic and the ACLU during an interview
, but it was unclear whether the San Francisco-based company later reached out to Repic personally.
“I’m glad they did this, and hopefully they’ll get those systems in place,” Repic said, adding that “it shouldn’t have taken this long.”
Repic stated that he had previously attempted in vain to update his driver profile to reflect his correct first name and pronouns
, and that he had repeatedly contacted the company via messaging on the driver app, emails, and phone calls, only to be given the runaround or no response at all, according to Sharon Brett
, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas.
“Forcing transgender UberEats drivers to deliver under their dead names is bad policy,” the ACLU wrote, “because it puts transgender drivers at risk of harassment, degradation, and violence.”
According to the ACLU, obtaining a legal name change can be a time-consuming, difficult, and costly process for many people.
According to Gabriel Arkles, senior counsel for the Transgender Legal Defense & Education
Fund, some employers have been moving
in the “right direction,” but there is still a long way to go since the United States Supreme Court
ruled in a landmark 2020 ruling that the Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination
because they are gay or transgender.
“This issue highlights some of the differences between saying a company treats people equally and actually creating conditions for people to have equal access to employment... To truly achieve the promise of the Supreme Court victory, we must ensure that actual practices of companies like Uber Eats change,” Arkles said.