Uber will end arbitration for victims of sexual violence in ride

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has made company culture a priority

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has made company culture a priority

(The new rule is largely for riders; both employees and drivers have been able to opt out for several years.) "We have learned it's important to give sexual assault and harassment survivors control of how they pursue their claims", Uber's post read. New CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has said he is committed to changing the company's culture to have a new emphasis on accountability and earning trust.

Uber will no longer require individual passengers, employees or drivers who allege sexual assault or harassment to use arbitration, the company announced on its blog today.

Arbitration clauses have played a role in high-profile settlements involving film mogul Harvey Weinstein and others, enabling accusations and settlements to be made in secret.

Lyft's ride-hailing service is following market leader Uber's example and dropping a requirement that kept a lid on allegations of sexual misconduct made by its passengers and drivers. "However, the company decided in these personal and hard set of claims the company wanted to give survivors the choice to seek redress in the venue of their choice, whether that's mediation, arbitration, or open court".

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"So while these changes may not please everybody, we believe they represent big, bold steps forward that will ultimately help us all prevent sexual assault more effectively", West said in the statement. (Were it not for its own sexual harassment issues and pressure from people like Fowler, whether Uber would have done away with the clause is anyone's guess.) But if Uber continues to reform, even if only on a surface level, it could effectively kick off an optics arms race, compelling other Silicon Valley companies to bow to social pressure by following suit.

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. They are getting rid of that policy for customers and employees alike. And in the midst of the #MeToo movement, advocates have singled out these stipulations as tools used to stifle women's stories of sexual harassment and assault.

It was just one of three changes announced by Chief Legal Officer Tony West, who said that it was part of Uber's new strategy of "transparency, integrity, and accountability". She said this is the "beginning of a longer process needed to meaningfully improve safety". The changes governing sexual misconduct come a month after Uber announced it will do criminal background checks on its USA drivers annually and add a 911 button for summoning help in emergencies. Khosrowshahi has vowed to "do the right thing", fix the damage from previous missteps and lure back alienated riders who defected to rivals such as Lyft.

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