Uber and Lyft will no longer force victims of sexual assault to settle outside of court, and it’s about time

Update: Hours after Uber announced its change in policy on May 15th, Lyft also announced it would be following suit and will no longer force accusers to settle outside of court.

After CNN uncovered over 100 allegations of sexual assault against Uber drivers made within the last four years, Uber announced on Tuesday, May 15th, that it will no longer force victims to settle their cases outside of court. Before this announcement, the company’s terms of service (aka its fine print) required that all sexual assault allegations be settled in arbitration, which kept these cases out of the public eye.

According to CNN, Uber will now allow victims of sexual assault — passengers, drivers, and company employees included — to choose how they want their claim to be handled: either in court, via mediation, or settled out of court. The 103 accused Uber drivers CNN unearthed are currently in jail, wanted by authorities, or facing civil suits.

Uber’s chief legal officer, Tony West, joined the Uber team in October 2017 and helped oversee these changes. Previously, he reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act in 2013 while he served as associate attorney general during the Obama administration. He told CNN via phone interview,

"We think it is very, very important to allow survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment the control and agency that was, frankly, stripped from them in that incident."

In December 2016, Uber tailored its community guidelines to specify that no sexual contact is allowed while using the app for ride sharing services. After Uber was made aware of CNN’s investigation in April 2018, the company released a sexual assault prevention video to help riders and drivers “create a safer community.”

The company will also begin to release data connected to sexual assault claims and other issues to create transparency between Uber and its users.

"It's only by accounting and acknowledging [reports] that we are empowered to take action in reducing the incidents of sexual assault," West told CNN. "We want to bring these numbers out in the open. We want people to acknowledge the enormity of the issue, and we want us to begin to think of constructive ways to prevent and end sexual assault."

Uber published a tweet chain earlier today, May 15th, outlining the changes both riders and drivers will see in the coming months regarding sexual assault and transparency. The company noted that it will also allow survivors to settle Uber-related claims without a confidentiality provision, which previously prevented survivors from discussing specific details about their allegations.

We hope these (long overdue) changes bring justice to victims and make Uber a safer mode of transportation for everyone.

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