New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi slammed the driver in an interview with the New York Post on Monday, saying that drivers like the one who kicked the lesbian couple out of his car for kissing "don't belong on Uber."
"This is an open society, and Uber is a platform that is available to anybody regardless of your background, your orientation, and that is sacred to us. It's an unfortunate circumstance, and we will do everything we can for that not to repeat," the Uber CEO was quoted as saying.
Uber's business model is predicated on it not employing any of its drivers. It built its business into a multibillion-dollar giant by reiterating the view that it is a technology company, not a transportation company, and drivers are all independent contractors. California's Supreme Court recently issued a decision that narrowed the definition of independent contractor, but in April a U.S. District court in Philadelphia ruled that drivers are not Uber employees.
"Uber does not tolerate any form of discrimination, and we have reached out to the rider regarding her experience," Uber spokeswoman Susan Hendrick said in a statement shared with CNBC. "We are investigating and will take appropriate action."
Since the incident, Uber has apologized, refunded the couple for their ride and notified them that the driver's access to the app has been removed.
"It's a helpless position, and I hope this sets a precedent to Uber," Iovine said.
Iovine and Pichl suggested the company create some type of profile for drivers, allowing them to identify drivers as LGBT-friendly in order to make passengers feel more comfortable.
Khosrowshahi continues his efforts to clean up the ride-hailing company's image. Uber was No. 2 on the 2018 CNBC Disruptor List amid the new CEO's public-image rehabilitation effort. The company was recently valued at $62 billion. Last month Khosrowshahi committed to closely monitoring driver backgrounds, and allowing riders to get in touch with authorities more quickly and effectively in the event of an emergency.
This incident also comes after Uber changed their policy on claims of sexual misconduct. The company announced it would be rolling back the use of forced arbitration agreements for employees, riders and drivers — giving victims of sexual assault more options.
"My hope is Uber does something to change their policy or prevent this from happening," Iovine said. "I would never want to violate the driver's rights, but protect the riders too and update the policy."
The couple said they have deleted the app and will no longer be using the service.
— By Brandon Gomez, CNBC news associate