Uber Backs Down on Arbitration Accused of Silencing Sex Assault Victims

On Tuesday morning, Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, published a lengthy blog post proclaiming the end of mandatory arbitration for anyone (driver, rider, employee) associated with a claim of sexual assault or sexual harassment.

Starting immediately, customers with assault claims against Uber drivers will no longer be forced to pursue their cases through arbitration.

Uber is not the first major tech company to announce this change: Microsoft announced a similar move in December 2017.

FBN's Gerri Willis on Uber safety concerns after one of the company's self-driving cars hit and killed a pedestrian. Survivors of sexual misconduct can also settle claims with Uber without having to sign a confidentiality agreement. Along with the ending of forced arbitration agreements, Uber also says that it plans to release a report about the sexual harassment and assault incidents that occur during use of its services, yet no date for that report has been announced.

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.

In an interview, West, a former Justice Department official who joined Uber in November, said its new policy applied to people now in arbitration with Uber over sexual assault of harassment claims. The company will now allow victims to choose the venue in which they wish to address sexual assault allegations, whether that be in open court, mediation or arbitration.

"You want people to report lower-level infractions so you can nip them in the bud before they become bigger problems", she said. As with the arbitration change, this will apply to cases now pending and cases moving forward. "We want to bring these numbers out in the open".

CNN did not include most of these complaints in its tally of cases because they could not all be verified with incident reports. However, there is a catch - the new policy only applies to individual claims, and not class action lawsuits.

The company says it will lean on hired advisors such as Ebony Tucker of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Cindy Southworth of the National Network to End Domestic Violence and Tina Tchen, a founder of the New York Time's Up Legal Defense Fund. Even worse for consumers is that in the world of arbitration, there is no possibility of class-action claims. 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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