Uber ends forced arbitration for sex assault, harassment claims

Tony West now Uber's chief legal officer back in 2014 when he worked in the Justice Department under Eric Holder

Bloomberg via Getty Images Tony West now Uber's chief legal officer back in 2014 when he worked in the Justice Department under Eric Holder

Uber will no longer require its USA riders, drivers, or employees to arbitrate individual claims of sexual assault or harassment, chief legal officer Tony West announced today (May 15).

The legal overhaul puts Uber, which a year ago was regarded as one of the most toxic workplaces in Silicon Valley, at the forefront of a movement to change how sexual harassment is handled in corporate America.

There's now no way to "reliably or accurately" compare Uber's safety to other forms of transportation, Chief Legal Officer Tony West said in the blog post announcing the move, and sexual assault is a "vastly underreported crime".

Under its terms of service, Uber previously required individuals who brought sexual assault and harassment allegations to go into arbitration - a controversial practice, because it deprives victims of the opportunity to bring their cases to trial. Now, survivors can choose to pursue their claims in arbitration, mediation or open court.

The San Francisco company is also scrapping a policy requiring all settlements of sexual misconduct to be kept confidential, giving victims the choice of whether they want to make their allegations public.

The ride-hailing company is also rolling back the requirement that victims must sign a confidentiality provision preventing them from speaking about the sexual assault or sexual harassment they suffered on the platform.

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Uber's announcement comes two weeks after CNN reported that 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing passengers in the last four years. As with the arbitration change, this will apply to cases now pending and cases moving forward.

"Divulging the details of what happened in a sexual assault or harassment should be up to the survivor, not us", West said.

It's only by accounting and acknowledging [reports] that we are empowered to take action in reducing the incidents of sexual assault.

There is no publicly available data for the number of sexual assaults by Uber drivers or drivers of other rideshare companies.

Uber is due to respond in court by Wednesday about whether it will require the women in the proposed class action suit to carry out their assault claims in arbitration. That means victims who wish to file lawsuits about harassment will still have to do so individually, and will still not be able to bring a case on behalf of many plaintiffs.

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