Uber announced Tuesday that it will now offer the option to sue the company without forced arbitration, which would compel any grievances to be heard by an independent third-party rather than an openly presiding judge or jury.
“Arbitration has an important role in the American justice system and includes many benefits for individuals and companies alike,” Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, explained in a blog post. “But we have learned it’s important to give sexual assault and harassment survivors control of how they pursue their claims. So moving forward, survivors will be free to choose to resolve their individual claims in the venue they prefer.”
Uber is also changing its policy to allow sexual assault accusers to settle claims with the ride-sharing giant without a confidentially stipulation forbidding them from speaking out.
“Confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements also have an appropriate role in resolving legal disputes. Often they help expedite resolution because they give both sides comfort that certain information (such as the settlement amount) will remain confidential,” West continued. “But divulging the details of what happened in a sexual assault or harassment should be up to the survivor, not us.”
The change comes as former Uber software engineer Susan Fowler has advocated for legislation to prohibit employers from forcing both current or potential employees into arbitration. Alongside the California Labor Federation, the Economic Policy Institute and California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, Fowler introduced a relevant bill in mid-April, while adding on Twitter she’s “not going to stop until forced arbitration is no longer allowed.”
— Susan Fowler (@susanthesquark) April 17, 2018
Fowler essentially prompted the highly influential #MeToo movement by coming out with her personal stories of unfair treatment and harassment at Uber. After Fowler described immensely inappropriate (even disturbing) conduct committed by co-workers and superiors, an onslaught of similarly creepy accounts from others both within and outside the company ensued. Uber was eventually hit with another class action legal complaint from two women who claim the company doesn’t sufficiently protect riders from rape — something they both claim to be direct victims of.
And it wasn’t just a handful of detailed accusations. Multiple damning reports were published in the months following Fowler’s account, like a top Uber executive analyzing a rape victim’s medical records to purportedly verify the authenticity of the accuser’s statements. Also, five different women accused a top Uber investor of sexual improprieties.
And, of course, it’s not just Uber that has been hit with a bevy of allegations of misconduct.
A former female engineer for Tesla levied a lawsuit against the company for allegedly ignoring complaints of internal sexual harassment, while also disproportionately paying her less than male equivalents.
The Daily Caller News Foundation spoke to both Tesla and the plaintiff’s lawyer, who shared very contrasting versions of what exactly happened.
Nevertheless, Fowler in particular is considered such a champion of the #MeToo movement that producers wanted the rights to her personal story so it can ultimately be turned into a movie.
Now, Fowler can presumably add Uber’s policy reforms as a victory, although she will likely want more to be done for the whole country — not just one company or industry. (RELATED: Ten Percent Of Women In Tech World Report ‘Unwanted Sexual Attention’)
“There’s no question that Uber has a unique relationship to the issue of sexual harassment in particular because of Susan Fowler’s blog,” West said, according to Bloomberg, the first to report on the company’s change. “This is an issue that is much much much bigger than Uber.”
The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Fowler’s publicist for comment and will update if and when the representative or represented responds.
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