Uber ends forced arbitration agreements of sexual assault claims

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Uber is changing how it handles assault claims. Robyn Beck AFP Getty Images

Following CNN's investigation and the letter, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from CT, challenged Uber's use of forced arbitration and in a letter to CEO Dara Khosrowshahi "respectfully requested" the company end the practice. Uber said the women will now have the choice of bringing their individual assault claims to arbitration, meditation or open court.

The new policy applies to Uber employees and drivers as well.

Uber says it's putting safety at the core of everything it does.

The policy change comes a year after former Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick was ousted as CEO, a move that happened as the company faced accusations of having a workplace culture of sexism and sexual harassment. Along with the ending of forced arbitration agreements, Uber also says that it plans to release a report about the sexual harassment and assault incidents that occur during use of its services, yet no date for that report has been announced.

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"Divulging the details of what happened in a sexual assault or harassment should be up to the survivor, not us", West said. The company is also adding a 911 button so riders can call for help in emergencies. "This is the beginning of a longer process needed to meaningfully improve safety". This past February, all 50 USA state attorneys general signed a letter to Congress calling for lawmakers to ban employers from mandating arbitration for sexual harassment claims in the workplace.

The company will no longer require confidentiality as part of settlement agreements in lawsuits pertaining to sexual assault or harassment.

Uber has been dealing with a series of recent scandals. As with the arbitration change, this will apply to cases now pending and cases moving forward. Internal data viewed by BuzzFeed in 2016 showed thousands of customer-support tickets with the phrases "sexual assault" or "rape" from December 2012 to August 2015.

In November 2017, two women in California filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that Uber's "woefully inadequate background checks" had created a platform that exposed thousands of female passengers to "rape, sexual assault, physical violence, and gender-motivated harassment". "Arbitration is the appropriate venue for this case", an Uber spokesperson said at the time. "What's most important is for individual survivors to be able to tell their individual stories".

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