Three weeks ago, CNN published the results of an investigation which found that at least 103 Uber drivers in the U.S. have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing passengers within the last four years. This is the first time we’ve ever seen an estimate of the total number of sexual assault and abuse cases that have occurred. Uber has kept this information under wraps since the company’s inception.
The investigation comes at the heels of several lawsuits that have been filed against Uber. Several of the latest lawsuits have challenged an agreement written into Uber’s terms of services that riders all must agree to before using the rideshare service. In the original agreement, users had to agree to resolve any sexual violence claims through private arbitration. This agreement kept the claims confidential and hidden—until recent lawsuits were brought to life and CNN launched its investigation.
Now, since the investigation, Uber has changed its tune. The company has changed its terms of service agreement to no longer force passengers who have been victims of sexual violence by drivers to settle claims through individual arbitration. Instead, victims of violence—including riders, employees, and drivers—will be able to choose how they wish to pursue legal action. These options include arbitration, mediation, or open court.
Uber’s chief legal officer, Tony West, stated in an interview with CNN that the company is taking steps to reduce the culture of silencing instances of sexual violence by changing the terms of service. In addition, Uber will no longer require confidentiality as part of settlement agreements in lawsuits that pertain to sexual violence or harassment. The company will also publish a “safety transparency report” that will state how many sexual assaults and other similar incidents occur on its platform.
These changes will go a long way towards making the issue more well-known and may additionally spurn Uber into taking action to stop cases of sexual violence from occurring. CNN found the data for their investigation after reviewing police reports, federal court reports, and court databases for 30 major U.S. cities, but Uber’s data should display the full picture—and will likely show higher numbers than CNN.
According to CNN’s data, at least 31 Uber drivers in the last four years have been convicted of crimes ranging from forcible touching to rape. Dozens of criminal and civil cases are currently pending. Not all of the police report data could be included in CNN’s data, so the estimates may, in fact, may be much higher.
Beyond Uber, forced arbitration clauses are a major issue in the United States today. When companies force customers, employees, and clients into private arbitration—thereby removing their freedom to make others aware of unlawful activities that take place—they are essentially removing a basic, human civil right.
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