SAN FRANCISCO: Uber Technologies Inc on Tuesday became the second major company to scrap mandatory arbitration to settle sexual harassment or assault claims, giving victims several options to pursue their claims including public lawsuits.
As part of arbitration, victims were required to enter into confidentiality agreements that prevented them from speaking publicly about the facts surrounding any sexual assault or harassment.
They can now settle claims through mediation, where they can choose confidentiality; in arbitration, where they can choose to maintain their privacy while pursuing their case; or in court, the ride-hailing service said in a blog post.
“We commit to publishing a safety transparency report that will include data on sexual assaults and other incidents that occur on the Uber platform,” Uber’s chief legal officer, Tony West, wrote in the blog.
“So moving forward, survivors will be free to choose to resolve their individual claims in the venue they prefer.”
Jeanne Christensen, a lawyer at Wigdor LLP who has been handling sexual harassment cases against Uber, agreed with the move.
“It’s one step toward making a change, but just bringing the issue into the open doesn’t solve the problem,” Christensen told Reuters.
In December, Microsoft Corp ended forced arbitration clauses and said sexual harassment victims would no longer need to settle cases privately.
Uber did not provide details on the number of sexual harassment cases that are pending or have been settled, but when contacted by Reuters it said it will not revisit past cases that have been settled through the confidentiality agreement.
According to some media reports, Uber was accused of trying to force women who say they were sexually assaulted by drivers to resolve their claims behind closed doors rather than in the courts, a move that critics say silences victims and shields the company from public scrutiny.
Uber is currently facing a class action lawsuit in the United States for poor driver vetting that has led to a series of sexual harassment incidents, including rape.
After several high-profile scandals, Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi, who took the top job in August last year, has been unveiling several safety measures to restore Uber’s brand and image.