Uber changes policies for claims of sexual harassment, assault

Uber changes policies for claims of sexual harassment, assault

Previously, Uber's terms of service barred sexual assault victims-and other potential litigants-from pursuing their claims against Uber in open court, redirecting their cases to private arbitration.

The shift announced Tuesday will allow riders and drivers to file allegations of rape and other sexual misconduct in courts and mediation instead of being locked into an arbitration hearing.

It is also scrapping a requirements for all settlements of sexual misconduct to be kept confidential, allowing victims to make their experience public.

"The last 18 months have exposed a silent epidemic of sexual assault and harassment that haunts every industry and every community", Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, wrote in a blog post on Uber's website.

"That always has to be our perspective when it comes to sexual assault".

In April, a CNN investigation identified more than 100 Uber drivers accused of sexually assaulting or abusing passengers in the past four years.

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As they are but one of many companies that have "tiny print" clauses in their agreements that require arbitration in the event of a dispute, Uber understands that nearly no consumers read these until they need to, and companies do this intentionally to avoid cost and time-consuming litigation.

Uber, like many companies, has a clause in its user agreement - and its employment contract - that requires a person to waive his or her constitutional right to take Uber to court.

Since then, calls for the end of forced arbitration for sexual assault survivors have intensified.

Following CNN's investigation and the letter, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from CT, challenged Uber's use of forced arbitration and in a letter to CEO Dara Khosrowshahi "respectfully requested" the company end the practice.

The new rules mark another conciliatory move made by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi (kahs-row-SHAH'-hee). One victim was attacked by a serial rapist who assaulted his passenger and 8 other women; another was an elderly woman who was beaten and raped; one victim says her driver forced her to drink his urine.

But she said in a statement Tuesday that Uber continues to fight class-action status for the 14 women she represents, showing that it is "not fully committed to meaningful change" because victims are more likely to pursue claims as part of a group. However, it has since confirmed that it will not only publish a report, but work together with Uber on that report. Nevertheless, the numbers recommend that there might be a lot more total occurrences of sexual assault than the 103 cases discovered in the examination. Uber is working with experts focused on sexual violence to come up with reporting standards. Uber said the women will now have the choice of bringing their individual assault claims to arbitration, meditation or open court.

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