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Uber won't force sexual assault survivors into arbitration

16 May 2018

Uber is giving its passengers and drivers a new way to report sexual misconduct.

The changes concerning misconduct have come a month after Uber announced that it will carry out criminal background checks on its US drivers annually and add a 911 button for summoning assistance in case of emergencies; an effort to keep people from using its service to prey on possible victims.

"We think the numbers are going to be disturbing", said Tony West, a former government prosecutor during the Obama administration who became Uber's chief legal officer after Khosrowshahi took over.

Uber will now allow these victims to choose where and how they want to pursue restitution and justice whether that's through arbitration, mediation or open court, modifying what was previously written in its terms of service. So we're making it clear that Uber will not require confidentiality provisions or non-disclosure agreements to prevent survivors from talking about the facts of what happened to them.

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The letter drew widespread media coverage, including over the issue of forced arbitration.

Uber has been dealing with a series of recent scandals.

He also addressed cases that are now in litigation. Those who previously signed non-disclosure agreements will still be bound by those NDAs.

"[CEO] Dara [Khosrowshahi] recently said that sexual predators often look for a dark corner", West wrote in his post. At that scale, our service ultimately reflects the world in which we operate-both the good and the bad. In March this year, Uber came under fire after records revealed that the company had tried to force the women to resort to individual arbitration. But Uber's move is sure to affect far more people as millions of people use the service each year. The company is working with experts to develop categories for reported incidents, which West wrote in a blog post would "take some time". Last year, for instance, Uber was hit with reports from former employees that management was ignoring or not doing enough to address their claims of sexual harassment. For its part, Uber contends that the vast majority of the suits filed against it are at the individual level.

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As the #MeToo movement ousted powerful men across industries, Microsoft announced in December that it would allow employees to sue the company for sexual harassment, rather than handle the matter behind closed doors, and it encouraged other companies to do the same.

Law firm Wigdor LLC proposed a class-action lawsuit in November on behalf of nine women who made accusations against Uber drivers. Uber said the women will now have the choice of bringing their individual assault claims to arbitration, meditation or open court.

"These kind of clauses are pretty common, but to have a company come out in front of it and say "it's not the right thing to do" is significant", said Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officer for Raliance, an advocacy group working with Uber.

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Uber won't force sexual assault survivors into arbitration