16 May, 2018
Ride-share apps Uber and Lyft will no longer bar customers from taking them to court over sex-assault claims, the companies announced Tuesday.
This means individual riders or drivers in the USA can choose to pursue allegations of sexual assault or harassment in open courts, and not just in closed arbitration hearings.
This announcement comes a couple of weeks after an investigation found that more than 100 stateside Uber drivers had been accused of sexually assaulting or harassing passengers in the last four years.
"When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man's first offense, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to, "she said". However, an Uber spokesman added that arbitration isn't necessarily bad. Uber is also doing away with the mandate that all settlements concerning sexual assault or harassment must be kept confidential.
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.
Since then, calls for the end of forced arbitration for sexual assault survivors have intensified. The women, represented by law firm Wigdor LLP, made a direct appeal to Uber's board in a letter last month, asking directors to waive the company's mandatory arbitration and anti-class action provisions.More news: Mohamed Salah Reveals His Fantasy Football Team And It Includes Himself
"On the heels of controversies ranging from exploitative use of surge pricing to questionable CEO behavior, there are reasonable questions about Uber's values at a time when consumers are increasingly voting with their wallets and using shared values as a key decision maker".
Fourteen women are attempting to sue Uber over sexual assaults and harassment they faced from drivers. "This policy extends to passengers, drivers and Lyft employees".
Jeanne M. Christensen, the partner at Wigdor handling the case, said in a statement, "Congratulations to Uber for choosing not to silence survivors".
Uber announced Tuesday that its new policies would include the publishing of "a safety transparency report that will include data on sexual assaults and other incidents that occur on the Uber platform". Uber is shifting its stance after receiving an open letter from the NY law firm Wigdor LLP, which already has filed a lawsuit seeking to be certified as a class action representing women who allege they have been raped, sexually harassed or abused in other ways by Uber drivers.
Uber says it has met with more than 80 women's groups and recruited several prominent advocates as advisers on these issues.