Uber nixes mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment claims
- Uber announced Tuesday it will no longer require its drivers, riders or employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements for individual claims of sexual assault or sexual harassment.
- In a blog post, Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West said survivors will instead have options when addressing their individual claims, including mediation, arbitration or an open court proceeding. Additionally, West said survivors will be able to settle claims without being required to agree to confidentiality provisions, including non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
- West said Uber has spoken with representatives from women's advocacy groups — Tina Tchen, co-founder of the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund, for example — as it seeks advice on the issues involved. The company is developing a "taxonomy to categorize the incidents reported to us" as part of this initiative, West said.
Uber now joins Microsoft and other firms in halting the use of both mandatory arbitration and NDAs, arrangements that many advocacy groups criticize as barriers to employees' ability to sue alleged sexual harassers. That Uber is doing so for both its employees and drivers (whom the company considers independent contractors) is all the more notable, given a regulatory environment that offers relatively few protections for gig economy workers.
The move is one of the first major initiatives Uber has launched since the hiring of West and Bo Young Lee, the company's first-ever Chief Diversity Officer. These and other moves indicate that the company is looking to make good on its promise to improve its culture, following allegations made by ex-engineer Susan Fowler that became part of the broader #MeToo movement that erupted in 2017 and continues to the present day.
The change applies to those who bring individual claims and doesn't necessarily extend to those pursuing class action lawsuits, Axios reports. Class action suits have been a thorn in the side of Uber and other gig economy players as of late; in 2016, a federal court granted class action status to a group of drivers suing over their classification as independent contractors.
Follow Ryan Golden on Twitter