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".
The decision to yield to pressure from critics who had pushed Uber to forgo the controversial legal practice is the companys latest move to improve its badly tarnished image since Dara Khosrowshahi took over as chief executive last August.
The move comes after reports surfaced revealing at least 100 Uber drivers in the US had been accused of sexually assaulting passengers in recent years, including one recent case in which a driver followed a female passenger after reaching her home and tried to force himself into her apartment.
On Monday, Uber started an advertising campaign featuring Khosrowshahi and a message that the company was "moving forward" in a new direction.
Beyond Uber, there's been a push to cut back on the use of forced arbitration by employers.
Uber will also provide survivors with the option to settle their claims with the company without a confidentiality provision that prevents them from speaking about the facts of the sexual assault or sexual harassment. The changes detailed Tuesday will also eliminate that 30-day requirement. Now individuals will be able to pursue their claims of sexual assault and harassment in any venue they choose: open court, mediation, or arbitration.
"Divulging the details of what happened in a sexual assault or harassment should be up to the survivor, not us", Uber said.
"Its important to give sexual assault, and harassment survivors control of how they pursue their claims". That would include rides and deliveries, as well as incidents that happen before pickup or after drop-off. In complaints involving sexual misconduct, arbitration and nondisclosure agreements often have a chilling effect: Technically, you can still bring a complaint to court, but the agreements enable the company to argue that the case was subject to binding arbitration, and a judge would likely agree. Fowler publicly challenged Khosrowshahi to scrap the forced arbitration agreements on Twitter.
"I will tell you that, when this data is actually published as part of the safety transparency report, I think those numbers are going to be disturbing", said West.
Also, there is no common terminology in law enforcement for reporting sexual assaults and sometimes the definitions of "sexual assault" differ from organization to organization, he said. "We hope to open-source this methodology so we can encourage others in the ridesharing, transportation and travel industries, both private and public, to join us in taking this step".