Uber has been facing heat throughout the last few years as they are accused of dismissing drivers due to low ratings from their flawed rating system. Their system has been considered flawed by driver’s who are affected by it because it allows racially biased ratings from their rides. A Lawsuit was filed stating that many individuals of minority races were affected by this star rating system and demanded that drivers should not be rated with this method any longer because of biased responses. Uber’s response to the allegations and requests were broad because they mainly focused on the odd timing of the case filing, as it was older than five years. This paper will discuss how four ethical approaches would evaluate this case. The Individualism approach would say that Uber was not profiting within the law. Utilitarian’s would say that the company does not maximize happiness in all parties involved, as it is releasing one specific group of people from their company, creating discomfort and unhappiness. The Kantian approach would say this case is not ethical, as Uber is treating their minority drives as a mere means, not an end in order to profit. The Virtue Theory would state that wisdom is not present, so therefore leadership will fail without the four virtues, and Uber is therefore unethical. Based on the evidence given, I would say that Uber needs to remove the star rating system and find a more efficient way to rate their drivers to make them feel more comfortable. I would say there is some racial bias within the company and how the service is run, which needs to be adjusted.
The company Uber is a driving service where individuals are able to go onto an app and request a driver through the app to bring them to their destination, much like a taxi service. Uber is used by many people all over the world for a variety of different reasons, whether that but for going out, lack of personal transportation, or even for convenience. One would expect a company like Uber to be personal and create a comfortable environment for all using this or working for them, however, there are claims that this is not the case. Uber has been said to be discriminatory against minority groups, specifically drivers, and release them of their driving duties due to low ratings. One case occurred in 2012 and the driver won, but a bigger lawsuit was filed a few years later.
Customers appeared "hostile" toward him, with some customers asking where he was from "in an unfriendly way." The lawsuit claimed that thousands of nonwhite drivers have been affected, as these racially biased ratings have no restrictions from occurring (Business Insider). A case between
Starting in November of 2018, trips started to be analyzed to see the difference in charges from communities. Over a year span, it was discovered that when a trip was ordered in lower income communities, driving charges would increase. The article stated specifically that “ride-hailing companies charged a higher price per mile for a trip if either the pick-up point or destination had a higher percentage of non-white residents or low-income residents” (insert source). The company itself has the ability to forecast when the busy times for the service will be, and in what area. By inferring that low-income communities will be needing to use the service, it was found they upcharge, therefore not making themselves available to those who need it in that area.
Finally, occurring in 2020, CEO of Argoplasma, Hans Berlud was caught shouting a racial slur at black driver Randy Clarke. Clarke is a 4.96 rated Uber driver who has done just over fourteen thousand Uber rides over the last four and a half years. Berlud shouted the racial slur at Clarke because of a front seat seating rule in his car, which was all captured on Clarke’s dashcam. Getting proof of this racial discrimination and hate towards minority Uber drivers puts the company in the heat, as there is beginning to be evidence of what Liu filed a lawsuit against in earlier years.
Randy Clarke's Profile
When taking a look into the stakeholders of this case, the Uber drivers and their families would be considered. A specific individual that would be a stakeholder would be Thomas Liu, the driver who filed the lawsuit against Uber due to the racially biased reviews he was receiving. Liu and the other minority drivers for Uber would be considered stakeholders, as they are the ones directly affected by the biased reviews being given. Uber itself would also be considered a stakeholder, as they are the company hiring the drivers, and releasing them due to not meeting the minimum rating, which is occurring because of the discriminatory reviews.
Individualism is the ethical theory founded by Milton Friedman that states a business should aim to maximize profits for their company, while staying within the law. It values the owner’s choices, as well as the business itself and their profits (Salazar 17). This ethical approach would go about this case by stating that Uber is not in fact maximizing their profits within the law, as the company is being racially biased and discriminatory.
If Individualism were to analyze this specific case on Uber, it would say that the drivers are morally responsible for their low ratings, and therefore their dismissal from Uber is their own responsibility. Uber would not personally take responsibility for the dismissal of these drivers, as they did not give the drivers a low rating, the individual driver’s consumers did base on their trip. Uber would claim that these drivers were dismissed for the own benefit of their company, as having drivers with low ratings does not help the company profit, as many consumers would no longer want to use the service. Although one can does not take a moral responsibility for their race and ethnicity, as that is the base of conflict in this case as racial bias is occurring, the Individualism approach would focus on the fact that Uber does not take responsibility for these drivers and would need to remove them since they do not allow the company to profit. However, this case demonstrates that Uber is not dismissing the drivers for a profit within the law, as mainly minority group drivers are being targeted. If the consumers using the service do not feel comfortable with the drivers they are receiving, leaving a lower rating would be justified. However, since these drivers being targeted are of a minority race/ethnicity, the individualism approach would not agree with how Uber is going about their profits.
Utilitarianism theory focuses on how to maximize happiness within individuals and others. Within a business, a company should aim to maximize happiness within those involved, including the drivers themselves, as well as the consumers using the service (Salazar 17). This ethical approach would not agree with the case and how Uber is treating their drivers, as racial bias is greatly occurring within the company.
If Utilitarianism were to analyze this case, it would reveal that Uber is not maximizing happiness for all involved, as drivers are not being considered. Uber’s driving rating system allows for many riders to rate their drivers based on racial bias and discrimination, creating an unhappy and unfair environment for these nonwhite drivers. Uber has the ability to alter this rating system, and acknowledge the racial issues occurring within the individuals that use their service. Due to Uber being racially biased and firing those of minority groups based off of low ratings given by the consumer, many people are being put in a difficult financial and emotional position. This is because they are being mistreated due to their race and ethnicity, which obviously one can does not control, while also losing a source of income to support themselves or even their families.
Kantianism is an ethical theory that focuses on how individuals are treated. It highlights treating individuals rationally and respecting them and their choices. When looking into Kantianism, the Formula of Humanity plays a large role. The Formula of Humanity describes how an individual should not be treated merely as a means, and instead as an end. Company’s treating their employees as mere means would be when they do not care about their employees as a rational individual, and only use them to the extent of their own benefit.
An individual who treats someone merely as a means is seen to be acting wrongly, which can relate to Uber and how they treat their drivers. Kantianism would not agree with Uber’s decisions and actions towards their drivers. This is because Uber treats racial minority workers merely as a means instead of an end, meaning they do not respect these drivers as a rational individual. Uber is using them as a service, and when one wrongdoing occurs, they immediately release these drivers. The lawsuit filed against the company discussed how many individuals were affected by the racially biased rating system, and Uber’s only statement was that they do not hold responsibility for acts of discrimination, as drivers are considered independent contractors. The company is not considering all potential reasoning for this occurrence with the driver, and instead makes an assumption on what happens and terminates their driving.
The Virtue Theory consists of the cardinal traits that work toward better individuals within society. These traits allow individuals to become a better self, and by containing the virtues of courage, justice, wisdom, and temperance, individuals are able to stay away from negative or bad traits (Salazar 17). In order to be ethical and for a company to be successful, all four of these virtues need to be met. In the case of Uber, two of the four virtues are not met, wisdom and justice.
Justice is fair treatment for all, and in this case, Uber is not treating all drivers with equal respect. There is no justice for minority drivers that work for this company, as many are being released due to biased reviews, they are receiving from the consumer using the service. Because Uber is lacking justice within their company, it makes them less credible and ethical. Not only are they missing justice, they also lack wisdom. Within this theory, wisdom is defined has having good judgment, and acting with knowledge. Uber lacks this as a whole, as they lack awareness and knowledge of the amount of minority workers being affected by their own rating system. The company is not cautious about how they approach the dismissal of these drivers, as they do not go over the drivers account to see if there are any similarities in ratings. Since Uber is missing two out of the four cardinal virtues, the Virtue Theory would say that Uber lacks leadership qualities. Because they lack leadership qualities, it brings down the credibility and good character of their company, making consumers and workers form different opinions on whether or not they have good intentions for all those involved within their service and company or not.
In my opinion, I feel that Uber’s star rating system is not ethical. I feel this because there is large room for error, as people are able to leave ratings for whatever reason, even if it is not based on the quality of the ride itself. Although the drivers working for Uber are considered independent contractors, I feel that they should still be protected against discrimination, as many are being fired indirectly because of it. What Thomas Liu encounter is not the first time an Uber driver faced racial bias, as this has also occurred one other time in 2012. The lawsuit I think was a reasonable action to be taken by Liu, as Uber would have not ever been held accountable for the flawed rating system putting many minority individuals’ jobs at risk. Driving for Uber may be a main source of income for many of the drivers working for the company, as they struggle to pay bills or feed their family. I think that Uber needs to be more aware of what the reviews consist of and need to have a set plan in place to analyze the reviews coming in for these drivers, and if they may potentially be racially biased, and not just because of a poor ride the consumer received.
Racism and racial bias have been an issue for many years but has been a large focus in the media and everyday life today. Many individuals that fit into these minority groups deal with discrimination every day, whether it be in the workplace, in public, or even on social media. With the world we live in today, many individuals should not have to live oppressed, and should receive equal rights throughout their everyday lives, especially in the workplace. Uber is a service that is available for all individuals and is supposed to add convenience to the consumers lives. It allows individuals anywhere to get a ride to any destination and leave a rating on their experience once the ride has concluded. The star-rating system in place, however, is flawed and allows riders to leave biased ratings that ultimately affect the future of the driver’s career within the company.
|How Uber Works|
Changes to the firing process need to be updated, so those who are dismissed are not dismissed unjustly. Currently, once an Uber driver drops below the needed driver rating, their account automatically gets closed, and they are dismissed from the company. Uber should do a multi-step system to dismiss those drivers that actually need to be dismissed, not dismiss those who receive a racially biased rating, causing their score to decrease. Hiring individuals who can overlook these ratings and create a warning system for the low ratings may be effective. By analyzing and counting the number of negative ratings a driver receives, these individuals can discuss proper outcomes for the driver, and decide if their low rating was biased or not.
When it comes to remarketing for the company, Uber needs to have some sort of press conference to address the issue at hand. By doing this, it can show its users that they are aware of the racially biased ratings being given to these nonwhite drivers, and that they care enough to fix it. This plan will promote business profits and productivity because all people will feel safer working for this company, as well as using the service knowing that changes have been made to avoid racial bias and discrimination. It conforms to the previously listed core values as the company will be more accepting of all races, as they treat all races and ethnicities equally. This will ensure good ethics, as Uber will no longer be able to discriminate and dismiss minority drivers because of alleged bad ratings.
Allyn, Bobby. “Uber Fires Drivers Based On 'Racially Biased' Star Rating System, Lawsuit Claims.” NPR, NPR, 26 Oct. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/10/26/927851281/uber-fires-drivers-based-on-racially-biased-star-rating-system-lawsuit-claims.
Beachum, Lateshia. “CEO Fired by Company He Founded after Video Showed Him Shouting Racial Slur at Uber Driver.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 6 Feb. 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/02/06/hans-berglund-fired-uber-video/.
Dean, Grace. “A New Lawsuit Accuses Uber of 'Intentional Race Discrimination,' Claiming the Star-Rating System It Has Used to Fire Drivers Is Biased.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 27 Oct. 2020, www.businessinsider.com/uber-lawsuit-discrimination-ratings-civil-rights-drivers-fired-2020-10.
Eidelson, Josh. “Uber Sued for Using ‘Biased’ Rider Ratings to Fire Drivers.” Bloomberg.Com, Oct. 2020, p. N.PAG. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=146637792&site=eds-live.
Murphy, Coral. “Was Your Uber, Lyft Fare High Because of Algorithm Bias?” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 22 July 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2020/07/22/uber-lyft-algorithms-discriminate-charge-more-non-white-areas/5481950002/.