Lyft drops arbitration requirement for sexual assault cases

Uber ends policy of forced arbitration for individual sexual assault claims		
		
	Natasha Lomas

       @	   
   	7 hours

Previously Uber's policy sought rape or assault allegations to be settled secretly in closed door arbitration, reports CBS2's Jessica Layton. The changes are being announced amid concerns that Uber hasn't done enough to protect its riders.

This means individual riders or drivers in the USA can choose to pursue allegations of sexual assault or harassment in open courts, and not just in closed arbitration hearings. Critics say the practice helps companies keep the issue of sexual violence quiet.

This move comes two weeks after CNN published a report that found at least 103 Uber drivers in the USA have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the last four years. The drivers were either arrested, are wanted by police, or have been named in civil suits related to the incidents.

Lyft, a rival vehicle service, had similar terms of service requiring passengers to use arbitration. Four drivers have been convicted. CNN's analysis came from an in-depth review of police reports, federal court records and county court databases for 20 major U.S. cities.

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

Andy Gilman, president and CEO of CommCore Consulting Group, says that Uber is taking a step-by-step approach to improving its reputation, and that companies that have similar compulsory arbitration clauses have been put on notice.

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"We have learned it's important to give sexual assault and harassment survivors control of how they pursue their claims", he said.

"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".

"That always has to be our perspective when it comes to sexual assault". However, the numbers suggest that there may be many more overall incidents of sexual assault than the cases found in the investigation.

The shift announced Tuesday will allow riders and drivers to file allegations of rape and other sexual misconduct in courts and mediation instead of being locked into an arbitration hearing. Uber stated the females will now have the option of bringing their specific attack declares to arbitration, meditation or open court.

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.

- CNN's Nelli Black, Curt Devine, Drew Griffin, Majlie de Puy Kamp, Collette Richards and Whitney Clegg contributed reporting.

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