Uber ends forced arbitration agreements of sexual assault claims

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

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

Uber has announced that it will end its use of forced arbitration agreements for claims of sexual misconduct involving employees, riders, and drivers.

CNN reported in April that at least 103 Uber drivers in the US have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing passengers in the last four years. The drivers were arrested, are wanted by police, or have been named in civil suits related to the incidents.

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". But for critics of the company, it's long overdue.

The company also said it would stop requiring confidentiality as part of settlements in sexual assault and harassment lawsuits, CNN reported.

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"I want to thank [CNN] for the reporting that you've done on this issue", West added.

Despite repeated requests, the company has yet to agree to an on-camera interview with CNN.

A day after Fowler's report went public, Uber hired Eric Holder, a former U.S. attorney general under president Barack Obama, to investigate allegations of sexual harassment.

But a CNN investigation found at least 103 Uber drivers in the USA who had been accused of sexual assault or harassment by passengers over the past four years. As with the arbitration change, this will apply to cases now pending and cases moving forward. That revelation kicked off 2017's annus horribilis, a year during which Uber saw itself bouncing from one crisis to the next.

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"The last 18 months have exposed a silent epidemic of sexual assault and harassment that haunts every industry and every community", the company said in a statement. "We want to bring these numbers out in the open". Internal data viewed by BuzzFeed in 2016 showed thousands of customer-support tickets with the phrases "sexual assault" or "rape" from December 2012 to August 2015. Uber was also accused of stealing trade secrets and covering up a massive data breach.

It may also spur more complaints. There's no public timetable yet for when Uber will release that report.

"Together, we can make meaningful progress towards ending sexual violence", West wrote. Uber is mandated to respond by Wednesday.

After Tuesday's change, victims can take their individual claims to arbitration, mediation or open court. The women will have to bring other claims in the suit, including unfair business practices, to an arbitrator.

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Prior to the announcement, Uber's terms of service required all allegations of this nature against drivers to be arbitrated outside of court. She joined California lawmakers in April to introduce a state bill that would ban forced arbitration. "What's most important is for individual survivors to be able to tell their individual stories".

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