Uber Eats has apologized after a policy in its app was forcibly outing transgender drivers.
41-year-old Laine Repic has been an Uber Eats driver in Kansas since April. As a transgender man, he does not use his legal name, but the Uber Eats app required all drivers to display their legal names to customers. There was no way for Repic to type in his actual name.
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Because the name on the app did not match his gender expression, Repic began to face harassment from customers.
The company ignored Repic’s repeated messages, phone calls, and emails asking that it update the app. So, he enlisted the help of the ACLU of Kansas, who sent Uber Eats a letter demanding the company allow drivers to display whatever name they choose.
“We urge UberEats to change this problem and update its technology to avoid violating state and federal laws,” the letter said, “and to ensure the safety and dignity of its transgender drivers in Kansas and beyond.”
The letter also detailed the harassment Repic experienced on the job.
“He has endured demeaning comments and felt fearful for his safety because his displayed name does not match his male gender or presentation. Additionally, Mr. Repic believes that UberEats’ outing of his transgender status has led to decreased tips and ride opportunities, which are essential to him making money in this role.”
Repic spoke with the Associated Press about the stress he experienced due to the display of his dead name.
“Having to, like, drive around with that name following you everywhere from customers it was nerve racking and it was scary and we shouldn’t have to be put in that position — especially when it was such a simple fix.”
“While nobody was physically, violently attacking me,” he continued, “these microaggressions they 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, it’s tiring, it’s demeaning because it’s like you are not being taken seriously. Having to fight for your own identity, it absolutely takes a mental toll on you. And this was my breaking point.”
In the letter, the ACLU said Uber did not appear to be intentionally discriminating against transgender people, but that it may still be violating state and federal nondiscrimination laws.
Uber released a statement to the Associated Press apologizing for the struggles Repic experienced and explaining the changes it has implemented.
“We recognize that for transgender and non-binary drivers and delivery people, the name on their ID does not always reflect their true identity,” the company said. “That’s why we recently announced they can choose to display their self-identified first name, without requiring the display of their legal name.”
The company also said it has set up a fund to help its drivers and delivery workers change their name on state and federal identification documents.
“I’m glad they did this and hopefully they will get those systems in place,” Repic said in response. “It shouldn’t have taken all this to get there.”