Uber will no longer silence victims of sexual assault


Under mounting pressure, Uber will announce Tuesday that it will no longer forbid passengers, drivers and employees from speaking publicly about sexual harassment or assault complaints they bring against the ride-hailing giant.

Previously, if you wanted to use Uber's app that meant you automatically agreed to terms and conditions and agreed to resolve any legal claims in an arbitration hearing.

The policy change comes after a recent CNN investigation focusing on the assaut and abuse accusations against drivers.

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

Uber is the second technology powerhouse in the past year to do away with requiring employers or customers to settle sexual misconduct complaints in private. Second, the company has also pledged to "eventually" release a report with data on sexual harassment and assault incidents that have occurred on its services. If they wish they will now be able to have their cases heard in open court and they will no longer be forced to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Uber is changing how it handles assault claims. "I want to thank (CNN) for the reporting that you've done on this issue". As with the arbitration change, this will apply to cases now pending and cases moving forward.

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West said he expected the number of reported assaults to increase in the first six to nine months after reporting the initial figures because "people will see that we are paying attention, that we are counting, that we looking to act on this data and that will encourage more reporting".

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

"We think the numbers are going to be disturbing", said Tony West, a former government prosecutor during the Obama administration who became Uber's chief legal officer after Khosrowshahi took over. However, there is a catch - the new policy only applies to individual claims, and not class action lawsuits. "Enabling survivors to make this choice will help to end the culture of silence that surrounds sexual violence".

And the company gained a reputation for sexism past year after a viral blog post from a former engineer, according to The Washington Post. Even worse for consumers is that in the world of arbitration, there is no possibility of class-action claims.

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