Uber strikes out confidentiality deal for s3xual assault victims

US-AVIATION-SCIENCE-TRANSPORTATION

The shift announced on Tuesday will allow riders and drivers to file allegations of rape, sexual assault and harassment in courts and mediation instead of being locked into an arbitration hearing.

There is no publicly available data for the number of sexual assaults by Uber drivers or drivers of other rideshare companies. Going forward, Uber says it will now let victims, including passengers as well as drivers and employees, choose the venue in which to pursue their grievance, including the courts.

The changes governing sexual misconduct come a month after Uber announced it will do criminal background checks on its US drivers annually and add a 911 button for summoning help in emergencies.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the move was "an important step forward in our commitment to safety and transparency".

Anyone using the Uber smartphone app to hail a ride was required to enter into confidential arbitration, even in the event of serious crimes, such as rape, committed by a driver.

"D$3 ivulging the details of what happened in a sexual assault or harassment should be up to the survivor, not us", West said.

In April, 14 women who have accused Uber drivers of sexually assaulting them wrote a letter to the companys board, urging it to waive the arbitration agreement and allow them to proceed with a lawsuit in open court.

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"You want people to report lower-level infractions so you can nip them in the bud before they become bigger problems", she said.

CNN did not include most of these complaints in its tally of cases because they could not all be verified with incident reports.

While no specific timeline has been given for the report's release, an Uber spokesperson told Axios that the company's Chief Legal Officer Tony West hopes to publish the report by the end of the year.

The company says it will lean on hired advisors such as Ebony Tucker of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Cindy Southworth of the National Network to End Domestic Violence and Tina Tchen, a founder of the New York Time's Up Legal Defense Fund. "We want to bring these numbers out in the open".

And the company gained a reputation for sexism previous year after a viral blog post from a former engineer, according to The Washington Post.

Arbitration has the look of a court hearing but are held in private and don't have the option of class-action claims. The company's revised policies, in addition to not being applied retroactively, also don't apply to class-action claims.

In December, Microsoft announced it was eliminating forced arbitration agreements with employees who made sexual assault or harassment claims.

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