Uber and its terms of service have come under fire during a recent CNN investigation. The rideshare company stated Tuesday that it will no longer force arbitration on passengers who allege that they have been sexually assaulted or harassed by drivers, something Uber says was previously required under its terms of service. As an alternative, Uber will now allow victims of sexual violence, including riders, employees, and drivers, to choose the venue in which they choose in order to pursue redress of their sexual harassment or assault claims, whether it be arbitration, mediation or in open court.
This major shift in policy comes on the heels of a recent CNN investigation, which found at least 103 Uber drivers working within the United States who have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers over the past four years. This is the first time that an actual number has been assigned to the issue and of the 103, all have been arrested, are wanted by the police or have been named in civil suits related to the incidents in question.
Until now, if you have downloaded the Uber app and signed up for service you, of course, agreed to Uber’s terms of service agreement. If you had actually read the agreement then you would know that you agreed to resolve any claims on an individual basis through arbitration. This practice, which has been challenged by lawsuits, helped the rideshare giant keep the issue quiet according to Uber critics.
In a phone conversation with CNN, Ubers’s chief legal officer, Tony West stated:
“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,” West added, “I want to thank (CNN) for the reporting that you’ve done on this issue.”
Tony West, who joined the upper echelon of the Uber ranks in October of 2017, served as associate attorney general under President Obama’s administration and help with the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.
This was not the only policy change that Uber announced that pertains to sexual assault. Uber will no longer require confidentiality as a part of settlement agreements in lawsuits pertaining to sexual assault or harassment. Like the arbitration change, this will apply to cases currently pending and cases moving forward.
In addition, Uber will publish a “safety transparency report” that will put numbers behind sexual assaults and other incidents that occur on its platform. To do so, it will develop a common taxonomy for how to classify sexual harassment and assault reports, which it plans to also make available to other companies. The lack of transparency about the number of incidents perpetrated by drivers has been a sticking point by victims in lawsuits, which claim Uber tries to hide the true scope of the issue from its customers.
“It’s only by accounting and acknowledging [reports] that we are empowered to take action in reducing the incidents of sexual assault,” said West. “We want to bring these numbers out in the open. We want people to acknowledge the enormity of the issue, and we want us to begin to think of constructive ways to prevent and end sexual assault.”
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