Uber removes forced arbitration clause, vows to no longer silence accusers | Spanlish

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Uber removes forced arbitration clause, vows to no longer silence accusers

Getty/Mark Ralston

Getty/Mark Ralston

Uber is on an expedition to heal its tarnished public reputation.

Under the helm of its new Chief Executive Officer, Dara Khosrowshahi, the company made an announcement on Tuesday that the company would prioritize sexual harassment and assault cases.

“The last 18 months have exposed a silent epidemic of sexual assault and harassment that haunts every industry and every community,” Uber’s Chief Legal Officer, Tony West, wrote in the announcement. “Uber is not immune to this deeply rooted problem, and we believe that it is up to us to be a big part of the solution. With that in mind, we’re making some important changes today.”

One of the major changes involved the way that the company treats claims of sexual assault or harassment by Uber drivers, riders or employees. The company had previously required forced arbitration for individual claims of sexual assault or harassment — a tactic that critics contend hides bad behavior in an attempt to protect a company's reputation.

Victims of sexual misconduct will also have the option to settle their claims with Uber without a confidentiality provision that would prohibit them from speaking out about the details of the incident.

The final change the company promised is that they would publish a safety transparency report, which would make data on sexual assaults and other incidents that occur on the Uber platform public.

Hours after Uber’s announcement, Lyft also said they will be waiving their arbitration requirement as well.

The changes are indeed a step in the right direction for Uber, who received scrutiny after reports surfaced of a deeply sexist company culture following former engineer Susan Fowler’s public account of her experience. Fowler documented her experience on her blog back in February 2017 — prior to the national reckoning that arrived with the #MeToo movement.

Fowler has publicly commended Uber’s move.

“This is a small step in the right direction, but an important step nonetheless,” she stated on Twitter. “There is still much work to do: this doesn't protect victims of other forms of discrimination, like racial and wage discrimination, and it doesn't allow victims to pursue class actions in open court.”

She added that she urges “every company, every founder, every employee” to “keep fighting to end mandatory arbitration, fight for the pending federal and state legislation, fight for victims of other forms of harassment and discrimination.”

As a legal tactic, arbitration has been known to silence sexual misconduct survivors, and the place of arbitration agreements in society is receiving a much-needed re-evaluation in the #MeToo era.

Andrea Downing, an attorney who practices employment law, told Salon that Uber’s move is a “a step in the right direction.

“While arbitration has some benefits, it should be a joint decision by the parties involved,” Downing said.

The benefit of taking the claims to court also allows individuals to hold Uber accountable.

“But, arbitration, unlike actions filed in state or federal court, is not a matter of public record,” she explained.

However, The Guardian reports that while individual claims can be filed in court, an Uber spokesperson confirmed the company will reportedly continue to force arbitration if a group of women brings forth a class action case together. This scenario was not addressed in Uber’s announcement.

But this doesn't mean Uber is necessarily a woke feminist ally in the fight against sexual violence.

“Time will tell how seriously Uber takes sexual harassment and assault allegations,” Downing said. “If it thoroughly investigates such allegations, and takes decisive corrective action without protracted litigation where the allegations are founded, that will show that Uber is standing strong against sexual harassment and assault.”

 



Source: Uber removes forced arbitration clause, vows to no longer silence accusers

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