Is This New Women-Only Ride-Sharing App Illegal?

She Rides is a new service launching in New York on Monday that connects female riders with women drivers. The gender-specific business plan is being scrutinized by those who say it discriminates against men. She Rides' founder argues that her service is not unlike a women-only gym.

She Rides is a new ride-sharing service launching in New York on Monday that connects women riders to female drivers. The company is the brainchild of Sandra Mateo, a mother of two daughters, who holds an opinion shared by many women. If she's going to take a ride with a stranger, she would feel more comfortable if the driver were a woman. With men making up 99% of New York taxi drivers, Mateo wanted to offer a niche alternative to her fellow females.

Mateo compares She Rides to other businesses that specifically cater to women: gyms and some hotels, for example. Others have noted that the service could be in violation of anti-discrimination laws. Sam Estreicher, a law professor at NYU, tells CBS that businesses cannot honor the wishes of customers who request to be served by workers of a certain race, sex, or ethnicity. This line of reasoning is why hypothetical ride-sharing apps like "White Rides" or "Hetero Rides" would be swiftly shut down. It's also why prison guards at women's prisons were integrated during the late 70s.

Mateo's response is that exceptions exist in certain situations. For example, women can request to see a female gynecologist if they're not comfortable with a male doctor. And with a recent spate of stories popping up about female Uber riders being sexually assaulted by their drivers, there appears to be a legitimate concern with regard to women's safety. Whether this pursuit of comfort and security abides by the law remains to be seen. This is one of those particular situations where legitimate cases for both sides are backed by both reason and precedent.

Read more at CBS News & CBS New York

Photo credit: Paul Vasarhelyi / Shutterstock

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