Uber’s sexual assault policies are undergoing major changes.
Company officials will no longer force their employees, drivers, or riders into arbitration after they file a sexual assault claim against the company. It’s the first big adjustment in the opening salvo of a new public relations campaign for the rideshare giant.
Uber’s legal director, former Obama Administration Assistant Attorney General Tony West, announced the change Tuesday in a television interview.
The company’s former sexual assault guideline, called “forced arbitration,” required victims to argue against Uber for financial relief in front of an arbitrator hired by Uber’s own legal team, rather than in court in front of an impartial third party. It also forced victims to remain publicly silent about their attack or any settlement they received.
Uber’s required employment contracts and terms of service agreements for drivers and riders made the policy possible. Riders signed the waiver by simply signing up for Uber in the first place.
The policy was meant to serve as a damage-control measure for Uber, critics say. The company has been wracked with rumors and charges of sexual harassment and assault both inside the company and by riders.
The end of forced arbitration came weeks after a scathing CNN report, which found 103 Uber drivers had been charged with sexual abuse or assault in the past four years.
"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," West told CNN.
In a Tuesday post from the company, titled Turning the Lights On, West unveiled another layer of its new policy:
“Divulging the details of what happened in a sexual assault or harassment should be up to the survivor, not us. So we’re making it clear that Uber will not require confidentiality provisions or non-disclosure agreements to prevent survivors from talking about the facts of what happened to them,” he wrote.
West’s announcement comes at a time when Uber officials are keen to change the company’s reputation. NBA and NHL playoff TV viewers Monday night saw a one-minute-long commercial featuring CEO Dara Khosrowshahi promising better service for riders and drivers.
Right now, the company is under heat from multiple fronts. An official at Uber’s main competition, Lyft, just announced the rival rideshare service has captured 35% of the U.S. market. That’s up from 20% last year, a 75% gain on Uber, once the undisputed king of the business.