On Tuesday morning, Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, published a lengthy blog post proclaiming the end of mandatory arbitration for anyone (driver, rider, employee) associated with a claim of sexual assault or sexual harassment.
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But she said in a written statement Tuesday that Uber continues to fight against class-action status for the 14 women she represents, showing it is "not fully committed to meaningful change" because victims are more likely to pursue claims as part of a group.
Weeks after a CNN investigation blew the lid off more than 100 sexual assault accusations against Uber drivers, the prominent ride-sharing company announced sweeping changes to its legal policies surrounding sexual misconduct.
CNN reported in April that at least 103 Uber drivers in the US have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing passengers in the last four years. As with the arbitration change, this will apply to cases now pending and cases moving forward. To do so, it will develop a common taxonomy for how to classify sexual harassment and assault reports, which it plans to also make available to other companies.
"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", West wrote.
"It's only by accounting and acknowledging [reports] that we are empowered to take action in reducing the incidents of sexual assault", said West. The report left open the possibility that countless more incidents existed, as sexual assault cases often go unreported.
There is no publicly available data for the number of sexual assaults by Uber drivers or drivers of other rideshare companies. Uber is mandated to respond by Wednesday. Our hope is that Uber ending forced arbitration for victims of sexual assault will begin a process to reduce future suffering by women passengers. That means victims who wish to file lawsuits about harassment will still have to do so individually, and will still not be able to bring a case on behalf of many plaintiffs.