Thursday, 24 May, 2018

Uber to end forced arbitration for victims of sexual assault, harassment

Uber Ends Forced Arbitration In Individual Cases Of Sexual Assault, Harassment Uber Eliminates Forced Arbitration for Sex Misconduct Claims
Heather Davidson | 16 May, 2018, 12:42

The changes concerning misconduct have come a month after Uber announced that it will carry out criminal background checks on its US drivers annually and add a 911 button for summoning assistance in case of emergencies; an effort to keep people from using its service to prey on possible victims. Jeanne Christensen, a Wigdor partner, congratulated Uber for shedding the arbitration policy, a move she said "will begin a process to reduce future suffering by women passengers".

This update, he continued, will "give riders, drivers and employees options to continue taking accusations of harassment or assaults into arbitration, but also allow for a confidential forum such as mediation or let the case play out in open court", according to the statement. "This policy extends to passengers, drivers and Lyft employees".

This means anyone who claims they that have been assaulted and wants to sue Uber can pursue their case in open court and appeal for a trial by jury.

In addition, it will release a "security openness report" that will put numbers behind sexual assaults and other events that happen on its platform. Uber, like many other companies (read the fine print, y'all), had "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. The company said on Tuesday it will release data on the number of sexual assaults on its service.

Uber and Lyft have ended forced arbitration for sexual assault cases brought by passengers, drivers and employees.

Uber has been embroiled in a series of scandals for well more than a year - including allegations of unchecked sexual harassment within Uber's headquarters, as well as controversies over the treatment of drivers and alleged business practices that were shady at best.

For a company with Uber's history, I'll believe it when I see it.

As part of its investigation, CNN also contacted more than 20 police departments to obtain data on complaints that involved Uber and Lyft drivers and sexual assault. (Were it not for its own sexual harassment issues and pressure from people like Fowler, whether Uber would have done away with the clause is anyone's guess.) But if Uber continues to reform, even if only on a surface level, it could effectively kick off an optics arms race, compelling other Silicon Valley companies to bow to social pressure by following suit.

Following the reporter's examination 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 asked for" the business end the practice.

"There is not much precedent for this", said Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officer at Raliance, a sexual assault prevention group that's working with Uber.

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