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Is the rating system illegal?

In my real job I am extremely aware of something called disparate impact theory – as it applies to housing, lending or employment or access to other public services. IMO it is a ridiculous idea but Supreme Court just upheld it.

The crux of the matter is that any system – that results in disproportionately unfair outcomes for a protected class (e.g. race or gender or national origin) even if such discrimination is unintentional runs afoul of antidiscrimination laws. I think Uber’s rating system is problematic under this theory.

Examples… purely using FICO scores in auto lending decisions leads to higher rate for minorities. Using blanket disqualification based on arrest records leads to discrimination against certain minorities. You can debate the wisdom or qualification of either but this is the law.

Here is some background for anyone interested:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disparate_impact

http://www.nationalfairhousing.org/PublicPolicy/DisparateImpact/tabid/4264/Default.aspx

My theory purely based on unscientific experience is that there is a disparate impact of the rating system (both drivers and pax) based on certain protected classes: gender, race and national origin in particular.

Broad generalizations lead me to come up with the following (there are clearly going to be exceptions but I’m solving for averages).

On the rider side:

· 4.8 – 4.9: Generally attractive white women [I realize attractive is not protected class);

· 4.5-4.7: Other attractive women of color, white men;

· 4.0-4.5: Men of color;

The biggest deviations from the above that I see are for pax who are chatty and engaged. But for similarly situated pax the above matrix tends to apply.

I actually have way more extensive experience being a pax. My observations are:

· 4.8-5.0: Either women drivers or white men or even men of color who don’t have accents or foreign sounding names (remember national origin is a protected class);

· Less than 4.6: men of color or with accents or foreign sounding names;

The biggest deviations from the above that I see are the make/model condition of the car and customer engagement skills. But again comparing similarly situated individuals the above has been true in my experience.

My hypothesis is that the Uber rating system is illegal based on disparate impact on both pax and drivers.

On Pax side:

Men of color might have a harder time getting a ride because of systemically lower rating on the uber system (i.e. the modern version of President Obama not being able to get a cab in dc in his young days even though cabbies are men of color).

On the driver side:

Drivers of non anglo-saxon national origins might be more likely to get deactivated.

Personally, I think this whole theory is BS. I personally think people are generally more comfortable with what is familiar to them rather than an intent to discriminate. But the law is the law. It looks through to the eventual outcome rather than what the intent was.

I would love to see what other peoples experience has been…
 

UberHammer

Well-Known Member
Past Sponsor
I think minorities would have an easy time proving that the Uber rating system reflects discrimination. Even if it was not designed to do so, that's not an excuse if the result is discriminatory. Now it's just a matter of getting a legal team willing to take on the burden, because the biggest part of the battle is getting Uber to turn over the evidence, as they will do everything in their power not to, given they know damn well that they deactivate far more minorities due to the rating system. Again, even if it's not intentional, it doesn't matter.
 

UberRalph

Well-Known Member
LOL... except people's ratings are based on how they act, how long they make you wait, and if they enter their destination or try to verbally steer you through the streets because they don't "trust the gps" or whatever bullshit excuse they give you as to why they have no address..
Rating system illegal? Lol I think it's the best thing about the app.. I turn down a 3.8 not because it may be a minority, but because they may give me a hard time for whatever reason and I just don't want to deal with that.
Attractive white women that make you wait 6 minutes or more, have all been rated 4.6 or lower.
Young thug ass @@@@@ with the sagging pants reeking of marijuana, but waiting right at the pinpoint and very polite, has destination entered already, was rated a 4.8
 

uberdriver

Well-Known Member
Very interesting points. I confess that I am not very familiar with the details of the legal practice on this matter.

Two observations:

-) On ratings for passengers, I am not sure that your assumption that women will have a higher rating than men, and in turn men of color will have a lower one than white men is correct. The experiences reported by many drivers is that their worse passengers tend to be the, usually entitled, female passengers. And I would also guesstimate that men of color tend to generally be more grateful/appreciative of getting an Uber driver to take them where they need to go, since they are used to the difficulties of getting a taxi. So men of color may be better passengers and get better ratings. What you mention about President Obama and taxis entails a big difference from requests to Uber drivers. The taxi drivers can see the race of the person before making the decision to accept the hail or not. Uber drivers only get a name, no face.

-) On ratings for drivers, I think your assumption is on the ball park in some dimensions like foreign born versus native speakers. But couldn't it be argued that there is an implicit business need of drivers being familiar with the area and riders having a valid preference for that ? Dicey of course, because many american born drivers may still have lived most of their lives in another city, and on the other side a driver with a strong accent may have lived in that particular american city for several decades.

Now a question for you: Do you know how most fancy restaurants do it to defend the fact that they always have attractive female only hostesses to man (no pun intended) the desk that assigns tables ? Almost never a male or a homely female. Prima facie it is not evident that being an attractive female will lead you to make better table assignment decisions.

Lots of food for thought....
 

UberHammer

Well-Known Member
Past Sponsor
Now a question for you: Do you know how most fancy restaurants do it to defend the fact that they always have attractive female only hostesses to man (no pun intended) the desk that assigns tables ? Almost never a male or a homely female. Prima facie it is not evident that being an attractive female will lead you to make better table assignment decisions.
Unless they're being sued for discrimination, they're not in a position that they need to defend it.
 

uberdriver

Well-Known Member
Rating system illegal? Lol I think it's the best thing about the app.. I turn down a 3.8 not because it may be a minority, but because they may give me a hard time for whatever reason and I just don't want to deal with that.
Exactly, drivers see mostly a number. And may be a gender, although these days there are so many names used by parents for babies of either sex, that it is not always easy to tell the gender. And except for some stereotypical names, not possible to know the race.

Attractive white women that make you wait 6 minutes or more, have all been rated 4.6 or lower. Young thug ass @@@@@ with the sagging pants reeking of marijuana, but waiting right at the pinpoint and very polite, has destination entered already, was rated a 4.8
That is pretty much the typical case, especially on the waiting time dimension. And (to the OP) just read all the threads about driver stories of very unpleasant passenger experiences. Non-minority female passengers are overwhelmingly represented
 

UberHammer

Well-Known Member
Past Sponsor
Ok, that is correct. So another way to ask the question: How come that they don't get sued a lot ?
From what I understand, it's a stressful job and doesn't receive direct tips from the customers. They may receive a share of the waitstaff tips, but that's not as lucrative as getting direct tips like the waitstaff.
 

uberdriver

Well-Known Member
From what I understand, it's a stressful job and doesn't receive direct tips from the customers. They may receive a share of the waitstaff tips, but that's not as lucrative as getting direct tips like the waitstaff.
That is all true. but what does it have to do with not being homely or male ? It is still a job that people would want. Actually, a homely female cannot choose if she wants to wait tables or be the hostess. And if you ask the attractive ones that are hostesses, they consider their job one step up from being a waitress. Going from waitress to hostess is a promotion. the inverse is a demotion.
 

UberHammer

Well-Known Member
Past Sponsor
That is all true. but what does it have to do with not being homely or male ? It is still a job that people would want. Actually, a homely female cannot choose if she wants to wait tables or be the hostess. And if you ask the attractive ones that are hostesses, they consider their job one step up from being a waitress.
Nothing is stopping anyone from suing restaurants over this.
 

UberHammer

Well-Known Member
Past Sponsor
True. But the question to the OP (or anybody else that is familiar with these employment discrimination issues) is "how come?"
Because being homely isn't protected by discrimination laws. The plaintiff has to sue for violation of a protected class. That's hard to prove in the case of restaurants with limited size in staff, and owners/managers who know how to CYA when firing an employee.

Uber on the other hand makes it very clear that a driver is fired (deactivated) as a result of their driving rating, and all the data is stored and available as evidence. If a protected class, such as a race, is suffering from higher deactivations, then that is a violation of the law, even if there was no intent of such a result.
 

uberdriver

Well-Known Member
Uber on the other hand makes it very clear that a driver is fired (deactivated) as a result of their driving rating, and all the data is stored and available as evidence. If a protected class, such as a race, is suffering from higher deactivations, then that is a violation of the law, even if there was no intent of such a result.
Good point. I can see some hungry lawyer may be looking for an opportunity here. But what data could they use ? The pictures of the former drivers with somebody doing an apartheid regime type of work of classifying people based on their photos ?
 

elelegido

Well-Known Member
· Less than 4.6: men of color
What is it with this country and the @@@@@-footing around / walking on eggshells with phrases like "people of color"? Everyone is a person of color. We all have color. But we use labels to differentiate between us, nothing more.

First it was negro, then it was black, then African American, and now this. What's next, we'll make reference to "people of alternate skin tones"? Ridiculous.

Maybe when I am asked my race on forms I should put " low melanin indexed" instead of the obviously hateful racist term "white".
 

KenR

Member
The problem is that under the disparate impact theory you can claim that just about any practice you encounter is discriminatory. So it's just a matter of which fights are activists going to litigate, really. It's ripe for abuse. Over time the public will tire of it if it's abused, and the disparate impact theory will go by the wayside.

But until then Uber is as vulnerable as any other entity to it.
 

UberHammer

Well-Known Member
Past Sponsor
Good point. I can see some hungry lawyer may be looking for an opportunity here. But what data could they use ? The pictures of the former drivers with somebody doing an apartheid regime type of work of classifying people based on their photos ?
It's simple math really. If the percentage of deactivated protected class drivers in relation to all deactivated drivers is higher than the percentage of active protected class drivers in relation to all active drivers, then the protected class is suffering from Uber's discriminatory rating/deactivation policy. Again, it doesn't matter if Uber intended for that result. All that matters is that it resulted in that.
 
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  • #17
Thanks for all the thoughtful responses.

It seems like deactivated drivers might have a especially strong claim here under the disparate impact theory. Pax with a low rating might have a claim too but based on comments above that might be harder to prove.

Probably the reason that Uber has not gotten sued yet is because the whole concept is too new...However, given the significant $$$ they have raised from investors and their valuation it seems like a great target for ambulance chasing lawyer. What would be required is for a lawyer to spend some serious money to find many deactivated drivers and develop a case. If certified as class action Uber would have to pony up the data. I imagine Uber doesn't collect information on national origin so the lawyer would have to find some way of putting that together. Lawyers have brought cases for more firvilous stuff and typically do this on a contingency basis (they take up to half the settlement).

My guess is Uber would settle very very quickly and do away with the rating system as we know it today.

Alternatively, the government can also go after them....but I'm not going to hold my breath for that...

Still curious if people find my matrix of drivers / pax to be correct. Not as interested in why the case might be .... but for this stuff its the result rather the causation that matters.
 

UberHammer

Well-Known Member
Past Sponsor
Might be as simple as informing the NAACP that there is a possibility that this may be happening. They probably have the process that needs to take place from that point down to a science.
 
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  • #19
Do you think the data would show that deactivated drivers disproportionately immigrants or have a non-anglo saxon national origin?
 

uberdriver

Well-Known Member
Do you think the data would show that deactivated drivers disproportionately immigrants or have a non-anglo saxon national origin?
May be yes. Or not.

But for those that know about this stuff (it seems you do), would the application of this disparate impact doctrine be different in these 2 examples ?

-) Immigrants are 90% of all drivers and 95% of deactivated drivers versus
-) Immigrants are 5% of all drivers and 10% of deactivated drivers.

I am afraid that in the real case of deactivated Uber drivers in large metro areas (which is more similar to the first example), if you measure the numbers by the ratio of percentages of the protected class, the proportion will not seem so out of line (a ratio of only 106%). Its when you measure it by the proportion of deactivated to total drivers of the non-protected group that you see a more statistically significant number of an anomaly (50%).

So maybe the legal case against Uber and deactivated drivers in large cities (NYC, SF, LA, DC) would not be so clear-cut.
 
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