Federal legislation has been introduced to address sexual assault and harassment among ride-sharing companies and other modes of transportation.
The Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act, sponsored by U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, would help track and prevent sexual assault and harassment within passenger airlines, intercity passenger railroads, cruise ships and transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft.
In addition to establishing formal policies, training and reporting procedures regarding sexual assault and harassment, the legislation would require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to collect and make publicly available information on the number of sexual assault or harassment incidents reported by carriers.
“In transportation, the number one priority is safety,” DeFazio said in introducing the bill on Nov. 18. “That means not only getting the traveling public to their destination safely, but also ensuring their safety throughout the trip. Unfortunately, sexual assault and harassment occurs all too often to the employees of transportation providers and individuals who are traveling, and more must be done to protect them.”
In support of the legislation, Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said that airline leadership must “set a clear tone of zero tolerance” with “clear consequences” for perpetrators. “Chairman DeFazio is marching us forward with this bill to do just that in all forms of transportation. It’s a no-brainer for every member of Congress who wants to protect their constituents in transportation to sign on and pass this legislation quickly.”
Also endorsing the legislation is the nonpartisan National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization.
“In the aftermath of #MeToo, NCOSE has learned of incidents of sexual assault of adults and minors, as well as sexual harassment including such behaviors as unwelcome sexual advances, exposure in view of the general public of sexually explicit materials, indecent exposure and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature perpetrated against both passengers and transportation carrier personnel,” said NCOSE Vice President of Policy and Research Lisa Thompson.
“This bill makes it clear that #TimesUp for perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment who commit their crimes while utilizing forms of public transportation, and that public transportation carriers must do their part to protect the well-being of both passengers and personnel.”
Uber and Lyft were chastised by DeFazio in October for failing to show up at a congressional hearing he helped organize on safety and labor practices within the ride-sharing industry. The hearing focused in part on the need for driver background checks in the wake of homicides and assaults committed by ride-sharing drivers or those posing as drivers.
In written statements sent to DeFazio’s committee earlier this month, the companies defended their current policies and detailed others they’re putting in place to improve passenger safety.