Under Pressure, Uber Ends Forced Arbitration For Sexual Misconduct Allegations

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Facing another wave of damaging publicity, Uber said today that it will no longer require mandatory arbitration for claims of sexual assault involving the company's drivers and employees.

Uber Technologies Inc. said it will let sexual assault and harassment victims sue the company in court and plans to release data on sexual violence and other risky incidents that occur on its ride-hailing service.

A CNN investigation revealed at least 103 Uber drivers in the USA were accused of sexually assaulting or abusing passengers in the past four years. But she said in a written statement Tuesday that Uber continues to fight against class-action status for the 14 women she represents, showing it is "not fully committed to meaningful change" because victims are more likely to pursue claims as part of a group.

A spokeswoman for Uber told NPR that the company has been considering a change to its arbitration policy for several months.

In a blog post, Uber announced that it will let sexual assault, rape, and harassment victims pursue their claims as they see fit, rather than forcing them into mandatory, private arbitration, which was previously required by Uber's terms of service. "We desire individuals to acknowledge the enormity of the concern, and we desire us to start to think about positive methods to prevent and end sexual assault". "This will not be the last issue Uber has to clean up to show it is dealing with all issues so that customers will trust the brand". Uber's chief legal officer, Tony West, released a statement on the company's website explaining the changes, and Lyft later followed suit announcing the same changes. While it's easy to pick on individual companies like Uber for having policies like this, the truth is that they're just doing what all companies do.

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"On the heels of controversies ranging from exploitative use of surge pricing to questionable CEO behavior, there are reasonable questions about Uber's values at a time when consumers are increasingly voting with their wallets and using shared values as a key decision maker".

Uber has faced questions about how often its drivers assault or harass passengers. Our hope is that Uber ending forced arbitration for victims of sexual assault will begin a process to reduce future suffering by women passengers. However, the numbers suggest that there may be many more overall incidents of sexual assault than the cases found in the investigation.

The news came one day ahead of a court-mandated due date for Uber to react in a proposed class action suit submitted by law practice Wigdor LLP on behalf of 9 females implicating motorists of sexual assault. The changes governing sexual misconduct come a month after Uber announced it will do criminal background checks on its USA drivers annually and add a 911 button for summoning help in emergencies.

The move - which has been hinted at earlier this year by Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi - means that riders will now be able to pursue allegations of sexual assault, harassment or other misconduct in court or in mediation.

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