My name is Adrian, and I’m a proud transgender man.
Back in June 2021, after completing my studies and serving in the military, I was eager to find a job and support my family including my 4-year-old. And so, like many parents trying to make ends meet during the pandemic, I considered working for Uber Eats.
It was easy to sign up and submit requested documents for a pre-employment background check like my driver’s license, photo, etc. As these documents were under review, I began to work and even earned $80 that first morning.
Unfortunately, later that day, I received a notification from Uber Eats saying my documents had not been approved. I was very confused because they didn’t explain why. I immediately resubmitted my documents. Desperate, I messaged the Uber Eats support team to ask why my documents weren’t approved. An Uber Eats representative stated that my case was being escalated to a specialized team for review and that I would hear back in five business days.
I then decided to call the support line and explain that if the issue was my driver’s license not matching my profile picture, it is because I am transgender, and the license photo was taken before I transitioned. I had explicitly noted in my application that I am a trans man and go by the name Adrian (even though at the time it was not my legal name). Unfortunately, the phone representative wasn’t much help and mentioned that my case was going to a specialized team to review. I also reached out to the Uber Eats support team on Twitter, but I received the same response.
After five days, I got a message on the Uber Eats app that I had submitted “fraudulent” documentation and would never be allowed to drive for Uber. Not only was I not allowed to appeal my deactivation with Uber Eats but I was also not given the option to deliver for Uber Eats under my former name and old picture.
Ironically, all this happened shortly after Uber announced its Right to Pride Initiative, acknowledging that forcing transgender drivers and delivery people to display a deadname and out-of-date profile photo “can lead to discrimination, harassment, and in some cases, violence.”
Despite Uber’s stated efforts to ensure that transgender and nonbinary individuals will be able to drive and deliver for the company while displaying only their “self-identified chosen first name,” somehow, I wasn’t allowed to drive at all and instead was accused of fraud just for asserting my true identity.
I knew there was something wrong and so I got in touch with the ACLU of Southern California, who successfully advocated with Uber to fix my issue.
With the help of the ACLU, I learned more about my legal rights as a transgender worker. In California, employers must honor the name and pronoun an employee asks to go by, regardless of whether it has been changed on their formal identification. Employers can insist on using an employee’s legal name only if it is “necessary” to meet a specific legal obligation (such as on a tax form).
What happened to me is certainly not unique. I’m fortunate that I have now found steady employment as an EMT, but for many others this issue persists. I know the ACLU has heard from several other trans people in California and beyond who have had similar problems with Uber.
I’m thankful the ACLU helped me defend myself, and I urge others to do the same. If you’re transgender and/or are in the process of changing your name, you shouldn’t have to struggle to get work. No one should miss out on work opportunities or be accused of fraud simply because of how they identify, or some perceived disconnect between their name and their picture.
If you or someone you know has a concern about civil rights or civil liberties in Southern California, contact the ACLU SoCal.