Uber will no longer force assault victims to arbitration
Uber will no longer force the use of private arbitration for riders, drivers or employees who claim that they have been sexually assaulted or harassed. Rather, these cases can now be brought to court and be heard by a jury.
Until now, riders waived their constitutional right to a trial when they signed Uber’s user agreement. Now, anyone who claims that they have been sexually assaulted or harassed as an Uber rider, driver, or employee can have their individual cases brought to court and be heard by a jury. Uber will also end the requirement that victims who accept settlements through arbitration must sign confidentiality agreements that prevent them from talking about their experiences.
The policy change does not include other forms of harassment.
Arbitration used to silence victims of assault and harassment
Because of confidentiality agreements, the company has been able to keep the issue out of the press. Despite this, a recent CNN report found that 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past 4 years. This is based on reviews of police reports, court records and databases for 20 major US cities. The drivers were arrested, are wanted by police, or have been named in civil suits related to the incidents. At least 31 drivers have been convicted for crimes ranging from forcible touching and false imprisonment to rape.
Uber has announced that it will release a transparency report that will add detail to the sexual assault and other incidents that have been reported by users of its app. The company currently has no formal reporting in place but intends not only to establish such a system by year end, but make public the methodology of categorizing incidents so that other companies can use it.
Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West announced in a blog post that the company “will no longer require mandatory arbitration for individual claims of sexual assault or sexual harassment by Uber riders, drivers or employees.” Notably, this policy change only applies to individual cases of sexual harassment and assault. It is not applicable to those pursuing collective action. This announcement came out just one day before a court deadline requiring Uber to respond to a class action suit recently filed against the company. The suit, brought by multiple women, is on behalf of all passengers who claimed they were assaulted by their drivers. Because this claim is on behalf of multiple alleged victims, it is still subject to the required private arbitration.
The parties that have brought the class act suit intend to proceed in pursuing a class certification for their case.
The requirement of forced arbitration is common among companies. Many legal experts are currently paying close attention to the outcome of a lawsuit currently before the US Supreme Court against Epic Systems Corporation. The case looks at whether employees have a right to band together as part of the National Labor Relations Act, or whether employers are protected by forcing employees into arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act.
Lyft has followed Uber’s lead by also announcing that it will do away with forced arbitration and confidentiality agreements in the cases of sexual abuse allegations.
At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, our personal injury lawyers fiercely believe that the right to a trial by jury is vital to our justice system. Too often, we sign away that right without even realizing it. Forced arbitration and confidentiality agreements can not only prevent victims from getting the justice they deserve but also silence them and allow the abuse to continue. Uber’s change in policy is a step in the right direction and a win for victims’ rights.
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