Ride-hailing companies Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft Inc scrapped Tuesday mandatory arbitration to settle sexual harassment or assault claims, giving victims several options to pursue their claims including public lawsuits but not class action lawsuits.
Uber’s decision comes after several high-profile scandals, as Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi has unveiled a series of safety measures to restore Uber’s brand and image since taking the top job last August.
Victims were previously required to enter into confidentiality agreements as part of arbitration to settle claims, which prevented them from speaking publicly about the facts surrounding any sexual assault or harassment. They can now settle claims through mediation, where they can choose confidentiality; in arbitration, where they can choose to maintain their privacy while pursuing their case; or in court, Uber said in a blog post.
Lyft also removed the confidentiality requirement for sexual assault victims and ended mandatory arbitration for individuals. “This policy extends to passengers, drivers and Lyft employees,” it said.
Jeanne Christensen, a lawyer at Wigdor LLP who has been handling sexual harassment cases against Uber, agreed with the ride-hailing company’s move. “It’s one step toward making a change, but just bringing the issue into the open doesn’t solve the problem,” Christensen told Reuters.
“It is a move in the right direction but the problem is the arbitration agreement prevents class action lawsuit which is essential for a policy change,” said Veena Dubal, associate professor of law at the University of California, Hastings.
Uber did not provide details on the number of sexual harassment cases that are pending or have been settled. However, a CNN investigation revealed last month that at least 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assaults or abuse across the U.S. territory, with 31 of them being convicted.