Uber Sexual Assault Victims No Longer Forced Into Arbitration

16 May, 2018, 08:10 | Author: Bridget Leonard
  • Tony West now Uber's chief legal officer back in 2014 when he worked in the Justice Department under Eric Holder

Both ride-sharing companies will allow riders, drivers, and passengers with claims of sexual assault to pursue their cases in open court. Now, in the U.S., Uber is waiving the requirement for these victims. Companies often prefer arbitration because matters are settled behind closed doors.

Susan Fowler, the previous Uber engineer whose post drove Uber to deal with unwanted sexual advances within the business's business labor force, is combating on the office problem more broadly in California.

"We think it is very, very important to allow survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment the control and agency that was, frankly, stripped from them in that incident", Uber's chief legal officer, Tony West, told CNN in a phone interview. She said Uber had fought hard to keep the claims under wraps.

Lyft, a rival vehicle service, had similar terms of service requiring passengers to use arbitration.

And Uber still hasn't made one key change that they demand in their suit: Tightening its driver background checks by running fingerprints through the Federal Bureau of Investigation and DOJ databases.

Last month, 14 female victims sent an open letter to Uber's board pointing to the company's own sexual harassment problems and the #MeToo movement. Uber announced that it created its new policy by consulting with women's groups and advisers including Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama's former chief-of-staff and one of the founders of the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund. If this approach survives court challenges, it could limit the potential payout for lawyers and damages that Uber could face. A class-action suit, filed in November, is pending in court. Uber has made a critical step in this direction, but preventing victims from proceeding together, on a class basis, shows that Uber is not fully committed to meaningful change.

With these principles in mind, earlier this year we began making significant improvements to our safety processes.

The company said it did not have an estimate of how much the change will cost and declined to say how many harassment and discrimination cases it has pending.

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

West informed the reporter he anticipates the variety of reports to increase when Uber launches information on sexual assaults and other events.

Uber hopes to recruit other corporations to release data, too.

Jeanne Christensen, the attorney representing the women who wrote the letter, says the change caught her by surprise.

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.

In addition, it will release a "security openness report" that will put numbers behind sexual assaults and other events that happen on its platform. "We're ready to work with Lyft, advocates and others to make that a reality", West tweeted on behalf of Uber.


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