Uber eliminates forced arbitration for sexual misconduct claims

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has made company culture a priority

This sudden change to Uber's terms of service comes just two weeks after an investigation revealed that over the past four years, 103 Uber drivers in the United States alone have been accused of sexual misconduct. Not long after he took the job late past year, he wrote his own blog post in which he proclaimed: "We do the right thing".

The now-famous account Fowler published in February 2017 plunged Uber into an existential crisis that ultimately led the company's board to push out co-founder and then-chief executive Travis Kalanick in a messy power struggle.

San Francisco - Uber is eliminating forced arbitration for passengers who allege sexual assault by the company's drivers. But for critics of the company, it's long overdue. In early June 2017, it fired 20 employees after a separate probe by law firm Perkins Coie.

It's a conciliatory step from CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

Arbitration clauses and nondisclosure agreements have always been business-as-usual in corporate America, but sentiment has begun to shift. "It is painfully clear that NDAs have hidden far too much wrongdoing from public scrutiny and, in some settings and with some people, have enabled serial harassment to go on for years or even decades". Uber also did away with a clause requiring people who settle such claims with Uber to sign a nondisclosure agreement that would forbid them from speaking about their experience.

"We have learned it's important to give sexual assault and harassment survivors control of how they pursue their claims", Uber said. So moving forward, survivors will be free to choose to resolve their individual claims in the venue they prefer: in a mediation where they can choose confidentiality; in arbitration, where they can choose to maintain their privacy while pursuing their case; or in open court. Internal data viewed by BuzzFeed in 2016 showed thousands of customer-support tickets with the phrases "sexual assault" or "rape" from December 2012 to August 2015.

Lyft announced its new stance Tuesday, a few hours after Uber announced the same shift as part of its efforts to turn over a new leaf after a wave of revelations and allegations about its bad behavior. As with the arbitration change, this will apply to cases now pending and cases moving forward.

Arbitration has the look of a court hearing but are held in private and don't have the option of class-action claims.

Uber has to formally decide by Wednesday whether it will require the women in the proposed class action suit to carry out their assault claims in forced arbitration.

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