Uber to bring transparency and allow users to pursue sexual assault claims

Robyn Valdez
May 16, 2018

The rehabilitation of Uber moved a step further Tuesday with the company's announcement that its ride-hailing contract would no longer bar riders from pursuing allegations of sexual assault or other misconduct in court.

The new rules mark another conciliatory move made by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi (kahs-row-SHAH'-hee).

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

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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. Giving victims of sexual assault or perceived sexual harassment more options sends an important message that Uber is taking the issue more seriously, said Kristen Houser, a spokeswoman for Raliance, a coalition of groups working with Uber to prevent sexual abuse on its service. "We agree with the changes". "Whether to find closure, seek treatment, or become advocates for change themselves, survivors will be in control of whether to share their stories". Uber faced a reckoning of its own a year ago after former software engineer Susan Fowler wrote a poignant blog post documenting harassment she faced there. In order to "do better" (or at least give that impression), Uber is now changing policies it should never have had in the first place. Yay? Riders, passengers, and employees in the US will now have the option of taking the company to court, or going through a mediator where confidentiality is optional.

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".

Assault and harassment cases are now exempt from that requirement.

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" I will inform you that, when this information is really released as part of the security openness report, I believe those numbers are going to be disturbing", stated West. 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.

"It starts with improving our product and policies, but it requires so much more, and we're in it for the long haul", West concluded in the post. (I deleted the app previous year, after a driver found my phone number-through his trip history, I assumed-and repeatedly texted and called me.) Last month, Uber implemented a host of long-delayed safety features, such as an emergency-call button that connects a rider to a 911 operator and features real-time location data from the moving vehicle.

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