Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Under Pressure, Uber Drops Arbitration Requirement For Sexual Assault Victims

Under Pressure, Uber Drops Arbitration Requirement For Sexual Assault Victims

In a move mirroring its rival, Lyft no longer will require complaints about sexual assault and harassment be heard in private arbitration, with all settlements remaining confidential. New CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has said he is committed to changing the company's culture to have a new emphasis on accountability and earning trust. And Uber will publish a "safety transparency report" within a year that includes data on sexual assaults and other incidents. In fact, there is no data to reliably or accurately compare reports against Uber drivers versus taxi drivers or limo drivers, or Uber versus buses, subways, airplanes or trains. The cooperation should both help gauge their incident rates and provide a yardstick for comparisons with taxis and other forms of transportation. The change came after a Metropolitan Police officer voiced concerns about delays in reporting. "This policy extends to passengers, drivers and Lyft employees", said Lyft spokesperson Alexandra LaManna in a statement on Tuesday.

The rules were created to protect the firm's liability; individual drivers could still be arrested and convicted of crimes.

There is no publicly available data for the number of sexual assaults by Uber drivers or drivers of other rideshare companies. "It is not something we will be able to solve on our own."On Tuesday, following Uber's announcement, Lyft said it would work with Uber to release comparable data".

In the meantime, the fate of many of those women's assault cases is far from clear. "Once individuals understand we're counting and we're taking note then exactly what is a significantly unreported criminal offense today will end up being more reported- which's an advantage".

Wigdor attorney Jeanne M. Christensen, who is representing women in the class-action suit against Uber, said ending forced arbitration for individual cases was a "critical step" and congratulated the firm for its decision. "However, doing the right thing under the duress of a national media investigation is unlikely to yield the kind of reputation benefits that putting customer safety first would have done for Uber", she says.

Victims can now decide whether or not to pursue their case in open court or through mediation or arbitration, he wrote.

In a statement to ABC News, West admitted that while the updated effort "won't apply to class-action suits", it "impacts the vast majority of assault claims we see on our platform".

The suit was originally filed in November 2017 but gained increased public attention in recent weeks after the women wrote a letter to Uber's board detailing their allegations and urging the company to remove its arbitration clause.

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.

Beyond Uber, there's been a push to cut back on the use of forced arbitration by employers. She signed up with California legislators in April to present a state expense that would prohibit forced arbitration.

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