Uber ends mandatory arbitration for sexual assault, harassment claims

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Uber will no longer make its drivers, customers and employees go through forced arbitration when they lodge sexual assault or harassment claims against the ride-hailing service, the company announced Tuesday.

However, asked about the 14 women who wrote a letter to Uber's board asking for release from the arbitration provision in order to pursue a class action lawsuit, West suggested the new policy did not apply.

"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", Uber's chief legal officer, Tony West, told CNN in a phone interview. "So moving forward, survivors will be free to choose to resolve their individual claims in the venue they prefer".

Previously, if you wanted to use Uber's app that meant you automatically agreed to terms and conditions and agreed to resolve any legal claims in an arbitration hearing.

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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.

Uber announced two other policy changes Tuesday.

The company will no longer require confidentiality as part of settlement agreements in lawsuits pertaining to sexual assault or harassment.

Following CNN's investigation and the letter, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from CT, challenged Uber's use of forced arbitration and in a letter to CEO Dara Khosrowshahi "respectfully requested" the company end the practice.

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"These kind of clauses are pretty common, but to have a company come out in front of it and say "it's not the right thing to do" is significant", said Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officer for Raliance, an advocacy group working with Uber.

Additionally, it will publish a "safety transparency report" that will put numbers behind sexual assaults and other incidents that occur on its platform.

However, in the end, Uber has decided it will go ahead and publish data.

But she also flagged Uber's decision to not end forced arbitration for groups of victims acting on a class basis - saying this shows the company is "not fully committed to meaningful change".

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"It's one step toward making a change, but just bringing the issue into the open doesn't solve the problem", Christensen told Reuters.