Lyft joins Uber to end forced arbitration for sexual assault victims

An Uber car waits for a client in Manhattan last June. Uber says customers drivers and employees who are sexually harassed or assaulted won't have to go to arbitration which required them to keep their stories private

This means individual riders or drivers in the US can choose to pursue allegations of sexual assault or harassment in open courts, and not just in closed arbitration hearings. Lyft, an Uber competitor, has a similar terms of service that says users will agree resolve claims through arbitration.

Forced arbitration been a particularly prickly issue at Uber, which has faced a string of sexual harassment claims in recent years from employees and riders.

During a phone interview with CNN ahead of the Uber announcement on Tuesday, Uber's chief legal officer Tony West said "to be most effective we need everyone in the industry to really follow suit here, for us all to lock arms in this fight against sexual assault".

As they are but one of many companies that have "tiny print" clauses in their agreements that require arbitration in the event of a dispute, Uber understands that nearly no consumers read these until they need to, and companies do this intentionally to avoid cost and time-consuming litigation.

"Arbitration is an appropriate form of dispute resolution that is often more beneficial for the parties than going to court", the spokesman said.

This means anyone who claims they that have been assaulted and wants to sue Uber can pursue their case in open court and appeal for a trial by jury.

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West joined the company in October 2017, after a sting as associated attorney general in President Barack Obama's administration.

CNN also contacted more than 20 police departments to obtain data on complaints that involved Uber and Lyft drivers and sexual assault. "We desire individuals to acknowledge the enormity of the concern, and we desire us to start to think about positive methods to prevent and end sexual assault". And Uber will publish a "safety transparency report" within a year that includes data on sexual assaults and other incidents. Four drivers have been convicted.

Jeanne Christensen, a Wigdor partner, congratulated Uber for shedding the arbitration policy, a move she said "will begin a process to reduce future suffering by women passengers". Nevertheless, the numbers recommend that there might be a lot more total occurrences of sexual assault than the 103 cases discovered in the examination. There's no public timetable yet for when Uber will release that report.

"When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man's first offense, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to, "she said".

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.

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