In response to several recent lawsuits targeting Uber, the rideshare company has decided to change its terms of service. Previously, Uber required all riders to agree to a clause that forced them to agree to resolve any claims involving sexual harassment, abuse, or assault through private arbitration. This ensured that the claims weren’t made public by way of a civil trial. By way of doing this, Uber was able to keep most sexual violence claims under tight wraps.
Until now, that is. After several lawsuits started making waves regarding this forced arbitration clause, CNN decided to launch an investigation that attempted to put numbers to the accounts of sexual misconduct that happened at the hands of Uber drivers or other employees. The investigation found that at least 103 U.S. Uber drivers have been accused of sexually assaulting, harassing, or abusing passengers within the past four years. At least 31 drivers were convicted of crimes, and dozens of cases are currently pending.
In the wake of this investigation, Uber announced it has changed its terms of service to reduce the culture of silencing instances of sexual violence. Riders who are victims of sexual violence will no longer be forced to settle claims through individual arbitration and will instead be allowed to choose how to pursue legal action. They may settle through arbitration, mediation, or court.
In addition, Uber will no longer require confidentiality during any settlement agreements that are reached in lawsuits pertaining to sexual abuse or assault. This decision will go a long way towards making these acts more transparent—and public. The company will also publish a report they are calling a “safety transparency report”. This report will talk about how many instances of sexual violence have occurred under the platform and will attempt to begin an open conversation of sorts regarding how further instances can be avoided.
In an interview with CNN, Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, stated that the data in this transparency report will be more accurate and may show numbers that are higher than CNN’s estimates. CNN’s report included data from 30 major U.S. city police reports, court databases, and federal court reports, but not all of the police data, for example, could be verified and was therefore omitted.
Forced arbitration clauses like that which have been removed by Uber continue to be a transparency issue in the United States. When corporations and businesses commit wrongful actions and force customers, clients, or employees to settle legal clients confidentially, it becomes difficult to hold these corporations accountable for the wrongdoings that take place.