Lyft Follows Uber in Ending Forced Arbitration For Sexual Harassment Claims

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Both ride-sharing companies will allow riders, drivers, and passengers with claims of sexual assault to pursue their cases in open court.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the move was "an important step forward in our commitment to safety and transparency".

Shortly after Uber announced the end of its forced arbitration policy for individual claims of sexual assault or harassment by Uber drivers, riders or employees, Lyft has done the same, Recode first reported.

Arbitration clauses have played a role in high-profile settlements involving film mogul Harvey Weinstein and others, enabling accusations and settlements to be made in secret.

Previously, upon signing up for Uber or Lyft services, users had to agree to resolve claims on an individual basis through arbitration.

Uber has been embroiled in a series of scandals for well more than a year - including allegations of unchecked sexual harassment within Uber's headquarters, as well as controversies over the treatment of drivers and alleged business practices that were shady at best. Those who choose arbitration can opt to settle their claim without submitting to the confidentiality provision or to nondisclosure agreements, Uber's chief legal officer, Tony West, wrote in a blog post. "We think they're going to be disturbing because it is never easy to report sexual assault".

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The upheaval in Uber's leadership was prompted in large part by one woman, Susan Fowler, who publicly shared her story about experiencing egregious sexual harassment at Uber and reporting it, repeatedly, to managers and human resources reps who dismissed her concerns and threatened retaliation. ("We were very gratified to see Lyft making changes to their own arbitration policy in the wake of Uber's announcement, and we applaud them-you always hope others will follow when staking out a leadership position", West told me in response.) Uber had a good incentive to do what other tech companies hadn't-it was already in the doghouse, the subject of its own hashtag and a boycott campaign that kicked off a cascade of near-catastrophic woes.

The decision comes only two weeks after CNN concluded its investigation and reported its results, which discovered that at least 103 Uber drivers in the US have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years.

Assault and harassment cases are now exempt from that requirement.

The Uber news was announced a day ahead of a court-mandated deadline for the company to respond to a proposed class action lawsuit filed by law firm Wigdor LLP on behalf of nine women accusing drivers of sexual assault. She said this is the "beginning of a longer process needed to meaningfully improve safety".

The pressure on Uber to change its policy included an open letter that the 14 women in the class-action suit sent to the company's board of directors last month. Khosrowshahi has vowed to "do the right thing", fix the damage from previous missteps and lure back alienated riders who defected to rivals such as Lyft.