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Lyft follows Uber's shift on sexual misconduct

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Uber ends policy of forced arbitration for individual sexual assault claims		
		
	Natasha Lomas

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   	7 hours

Uber is now facing a class action lawsuit in the United States for poor driver vetting that has led to a series of sexual harassment incidents, including rape.

Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer whose blog post drove Uber to address sexual harassment within the company's corporate workforce, is fighting on the workplace issue more broadly in California. A frat boy corporate culture ultimately came to haunt co-founder and former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who was forced out previous year.

The company is ending the controversial practice of forced arbitration for all of its employees, riders, and drivers, reports CNBC. "We need to end the practice of forced arbitration", she wrote on April 12, "a legal loophole companies use to cover up their illegal treatment of employees".

The new rules mark a conciliatory step made by the Uber chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi.

Arbitration clauses and nondisclosure agreements have always been business-as-usual in corporate America, but sentiment has begun to shift.

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Some lawmakers had urged Uber to waive binding arbitration for sexual harassment complaints.

Uber also will no longer require confidentiality as part of settlement agreements in sexual harassment or assault claims. "So moving forward, survivors will be free to choose to resolve their individual claims in the venue they prefer". This past February, all 50 USA state attorneys general signed a letter to Congress calling for lawmakers to ban employers from mandating arbitration for sexual harassment claims in the workplace.

Survivors will now have the choice to pursue claims in mediation, where they can choose confidentiality; in arbitration, where they can choose to maintain their privacy while pursuing their case, or in open court - leaving those affected "free to tell their story" however they see fit, Uber said. Internal data viewed by BuzzFeed in 2016 showed thousands of customer-support tickets with the phrases "sexual assault" or "rape" from December 2012 to August 2015.

The changes governing sexual misconduct come a month after Uber announced it will do criminal background checks on its USA drivers annually and add a 911 button for summoning help in emergencies.

The news came one day ahead of a court-mandated deadline for Uber to respond in a proposed class action lawsuit filed by law firm Wigdor LLC on behalf of nine women accusing drivers of sexual assault. As with the arbitration change, this will apply to cases now pending and cases moving forward. "They understand how their reputation will suffer if consumers perceive them as using arbitration to hide bad behavior".

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