Uber faces backlash over 'separate' bathroom controversy: 'This was a mistake'

Uber has apologized after facing backlash over the revelation that at least one of its offices had separate bathrooms for its workers — one for drivers, and one for corporate employees. 

Erika Betts, an Uber driver, exposed the issue after visiting one of the company's offices in Providence, R.I., earlier this week. Betts noticed there were two clearly marked signs outside the restroom area — designating "employees" vs. Uber drivers, which the company calls "partners."

The driver, who made the discovery inside an Uber "Greenlight Hub" — which are special offices the company uses for driver support and recruitment — later posted an image of the designated bathrooms on Twitter. 

"Anyone else think it's strange that Uber views partners & employees as two separate classes of people?" Betts tweeted.  

Betts' photo caught the attention of hundreds of users — including other drives — many of whom shared their outrage over the corporate division. 

"They are so unfriendly and not accommodating to their drivers," one person responded. "They treat us like we are less than when we are what is running the numbers in the company."

"This is such an important piece of information to share," another commented. "Drivers are definitely employees and @uber is intentionally misclassifying y’all to evade labor law."

Uber drivers are technically independent contractors and are therefore not considered to be full-time employees of the company. That rule, which denies drivers the right to receive minimum wage or apply for benefits such as health care and workers' compensation, has long been a point of controversy for the rideshare company.

Some Twitter users referenced that fact in defense of the separate bathrooms, telling Betts they agreed with the distinctions.

"As a part-time driver and user when out of town, I think the employees are entitled to a clean bathroom," another Twitter user wrote. "Drivers aren't always the cleanest people on the planet. So, yes, I support that decision."

For her part, Betts continued to express her dissatisfaction with the situation. The driver told VICE that she found the separate bathrooms to be "obscure and uncalled for."

"I feel the company's driver support system is laughable at best," Betts told VICE. "The Greenlight Hub is the best option drivers have, despite the limited authority provided by the hub representatives."

Uber quickly apologized for the restrooms, with one employee, Andrew Macdonald, responding to Betts on Twitter to tell her the situation would be fixed immediately. 

"This is not our policy and it's absolutely unacceptable," Macdonald tweeted Wednesday evening. "The signs are coming down today."

The company continued to publically express its regret for the restrooms, with a spokesperson also confirming with VICE that the signs were being removed.

"This was a mistake and we regret it," an Uber spokesperson told VICE.

Betts' photo even drew the attention of U.S. politicians, with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sharing her frustration with the workplace separation.

"Siri, show me what classicism looks like," the congresswoman tweeted

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