Uber Drops Mandatory Arbitration for Sexual Assault Claims

The company will also release a report on sexual assault allegations.

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Responding to mounting criticism about how it handles sexual assault and sexual harassment claims, Uber will no longer require arbitration for these complaints. The new policy, which applies to riders, drivers, and Uber employees, means victims now have the option to go to court or join a class-action lawsuit.

Arbitration clauses aren't unique to Uber. Companies often prefer arbitration because matters are settled behind closed doors. While the privacy arbitration affords may be preferable to an open court case for some survivors of sexual assault or sexual harassment, rulings tend to favor the company. Mandatory arbitration also prevents survivors from joining class-action lawsuits, forcing them to stand alone against the company.

Uber is also dropping a requirement that survivors sign confidentiality agreements in order to settle their claims. Again, some survivors may prefer privacy, but the confidentiality agreements also prevent people from speaking publicly about their cases and drawing attention to any systemic problems that may need to be addressed. In a blog post, Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West said that doing away with confidentiality agreements will help survivors seek treatment and closure, as well as "help end the culture of silence that surrounds sexual violence."

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The ride-hailing company will also publish a "safety transparency report," marking the first time it has publicly discussed data on crimes committed by its drivers. A recent CNN report claimed that 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault, along with 18 drivers from smaller rival Lyft. West said Uber has hesitated to compile a report on sexual assault and sexual harassment claims because of the difficulty in obtaining accurate data.

Data on sexual assaults is "sparse and inconsistent," West said. He claimed "there is no data to reliably or accurately compare reports against Uber drivers" to taxi or livery drivers, or to other forms of transportation like buses, trains, and airplanes. West also said that two out of three assaults go unreported to the police.

Uber's newfound transparency on sexual assault and sexual harassment is the latest in a series of policy changes enacted under CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to improve the company's reputation. Uber also recently instituted new safety policies for both drivers and riders to address criticism. Khosrowshahi has also taken a more diplomatic approach to negotiations with regulators than previous CEO Travis Kalanick.