- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - The ride-booking company Uber has removed a driver after a customer reported she was sexually assaulted during a ride in Chicago last month, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. The report emerged as Uber faces new legal challenges to its background check claims in California.

Uber is cooperating with Chicago police in an investigation into what company spokeswoman Jennifer Mullin called “an appalling and unacceptable incident.” The San Francisco-based company is “ready to assist (police) however we can to hold the perpetrator accountable,” she said.

The allegation from a police report was first made public Tuesday by the news website DNAinfo, which said a woman told police an Uber driver picked her up at a bar, asked her to get in the front seat and attacked her during the ride. She told police she blacked out, but remembered being in an apartment with the driver on top of her.

Chicago Police spokesman Jose Estrada said police have been in contact with the victim and Uber, and are continuing to investigate. No one has been arrested.

The driver was working on the company’s low-cost UberX platform, Mullin said. The UberX platform allows customers to use their smartphones to hail rides from individuals who drive their own vehicles. Those drivers pass the “exact same background check” that Uber requires of taxi drivers who hold city public chauffeur licenses, she said. The Uber app allows customers to choose a ride from a private driver, a taxi or a limousine.

“Our background checks far exceed what is required of taxis in the city,” Mullin said. “We’ve had taxi drivers fail the Uber background check.” The company screens out drivers with records of severe driving infractions, sexual offenses and violent crimes during the past seven years, she said.

In lawsuits filed Tuesday in San Francisco, California prosecutors said Uber exaggerates its background checks, misleading customers. Driver applicants can get around the checks by using stolen or false identification, prosecutors said.

The issue has been contentious in Illinois. Last week, the Illinois Legislature passed a bill requiring background checks for drivers after a previous bill was vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn. Taxi drivers have pressed for stricter regulation of the new ridesharing industry, which also includes companies such as Lyft and Sidecar.


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