Tuesday, 22 May, 2018

Uber will no longer silence victims of sexual assault

US-AVIATION-SCIENCE-TRANSPORTATION Uber is changing how it handles assault claims. Robyn Beck AFP Getty Images
Terence Owen | 15 May, 2018, 22:32

Uber also announced two other policy changes pertaining to sexual assault.

Uber will no longer force passengers who accuse drivers of sexual assault or harassment into arbitration, a company official told CNN.

Just over a year ago, an ex-Uber engineer, Susan Fowler, stepped forward with a harrowing tale of sexual harassment at her former company. If they wish they will now be able to have their cases heard in open court and they will no longer be forced to sign non-disclosure agreements.

"Whether to find closure, seek treatment, or become advocates for change themselves, survivors will be in control of whether to share their stories", wrote Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, in a blog post.

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.

Last but certainly not least, Uber will start publishing data on sexual assault and other safety concerns that occur under its watch.

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It's a huge about-turn for the company, which until now has silenced victims by insisting on mandatory arbitration and confidentiality provisions. Critics saw it as a way for Uber to keep the issues under wraps.

The company says it will lean on hired advisors such as Ebony Tucker of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Cindy Southworth of the National Network to End Domestic Violence and Tina Tchen, a founder of the New York Time's Up Legal Defense Fund.

Last month, Uber took another step to earn back customers' trust by announcing that it will start performing criminal background checks on its US drivers each year.

It's only by accounting and acknowledging [reports] that we are empowered to take action in reducing the incidents of sexual assault.

The news came one day ahead of a court-mandated deadline for Uber to respond in a proposed class action lawsuit filed by law firm Wigdor LLP on behalf of nine women accusing drivers of sexual assault.

Prior to the announcement, Uber's terms of service required all allegations of this nature against drivers to be arbitrated outside of court. Uber is mandated to respond by Wednesday.

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