Tech

Uber, Finally Done With Arbitration, Is Going To Court

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Kyle Perisic Contributor

A former Uber employee filed a lawsuit on Monday alleging the company subjected her to years of sexual harassment and that she faced retaliation when she complained about it.

Ingrid Avendaño worked at Uber from February 2014 to June 2017 as a software engineer. The workplace “was permeated with degrading, marginalizing, discriminatory, and sexually harassing conduct toward women” during those years, she claims in the lawsuit.

When she complained about the behavior, she says she faced “blatant retaliation, including denial of promotions and raises, unwarranted negative performance reviews and placement on an oppressively demanding on-call schedule that had detrimental effects on her health” and “was also threatened with termination,” the lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court, alleges.

The case will be Uber’s first after it got rid of its mandatory arbitration policy that prevented sexual assault victims from taking the billion-dollar company to court.

Uber announced on May 15 that the company will end arbitration after advocates, lawmakers, and others urged the ride-sharing company to end the practice. (RELATED: California Might Force Uber and Lyft To Drive Electric Cars)

“I urge you to end Uber’s current practice of requiring all users to agree to a pre-dispute arbitration agreement in order to use your services,” Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut wrote in an open letter to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi on May 2. “When these agreements are inserted into the fine print of large corporations’ terms of service – as is the case with Uber – consumers lack a meaningful opportunity to understand and object before they give away their right to access the justice system.”

“[W]e 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,” Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, wrote in a blog post on May 15.

Uber also changed its policy to let sexual assault accusers settle claims with Uber without a confidentially stipulation that forbids them from speaking out against the company. “Divulging the details of what happened in a sexual assault or harassment should be up to the survivor, not us,” West wrote.

“I believe that Ingrid Avendaño’s actions demonstrated a steadfast commitment to the betterment of Uber. For years, she wanted to help make Uber a safe and just place to work for herself and other female employees,” Outten & Golden’s Jennifer Schwartz, a lawyer from the law firm representing Avendaño, said in a statement. “An employee who complains about unfair treatment should not suffer retaliatory conduct, costs to her career, or costs to her health. And such an employee should not be subjected to efforts to silence her or to force her to resign.”

An Uber spokesperson gave The Daily Caller News Foundation the following statement:

“Uber is moving in a new direction. Last week, we proactively announced changes to our arbitration policies. And in the past year we have implemented a new salary and equity structure based on the market, overhauled our performance review process, published Diversity & Inclusion reports, and created and delivered diversity and leadership trainings to thousands of employees globally.”

This post has been updated to include a statement from Uber.

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