Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
Arts&Culture | By Antoinette Montgomery

Lyft Says It Won't Force Misconduct Cases Into Arbitration Anymore

Lyft Says It Won't Force Misconduct Cases Into Arbitration Anymore

Last year, co-founder Travis Kalanick was pushed out as CEO when Uber faced accusations including a workplace culture of sexism and sexual harassment.

In a series of changes, Uber announced it would no longer force victims of sexual assault into mandatory arbitration and would instead allow them "choose to resolve their individual claims in the venue they prefer".

Uber will give its USA riders and drivers greater freedom to pursue claims of sexual misconduct in a new bid to improve its reputation.

Lyft's ride-hailing service is following market leader Uber's example and dropping a requirement that kept a lid on allegations of sexual misconduct made by its passengers and drivers. It was the very first time that numbers have actually been put to the problem.

As they are but one of many companies that have "tiny print" clauses in their agreements that require arbitration in the event of a dispute, Uber understands that nearly no consumers read these until they need to, and companies do this intentionally to avoid cost and time-consuming litigation. Critics say the practice helps companies keep the issue of sexual violence quiet.

Despite repeated requests, the company has yet to agree to an on-camera interview with CNN.

West joined the company in October 2017, after a sting as associated attorney general in President Barack Obama's administration.

Uber also announced two other policy changes pertaining to sexual assault. Similar to the arbitration modification, this will apply to cases presently pending and cases progressing.

There is no publicly available data for the number of sexual assaults by Uber, Lyft, or other rideshare companies. The absence of openness about the variety of events committed by motorists has actually been a sticking point by victims in suits, which declare Uber aims to hide the true scope of the issue from its consumers.

"It's only by accounting and acknowledging [reports] that we are empowered to take action in reducing the incidents of sexual assault", said West.

Since then, calls for the end of forced arbitration for sexual assault survivors have intensified. CNN's analysis came from an in-depth review of police reports, federal court records and county court databases for 20 major United States cities. Last month, Khosrowshahi said Uber would more closely monitor driver backgrounds. Four drivers have been convicted. "Data transparency is only meaningful if we describe and categorize sexual assault incidents in the same way". Uber is working with experts focused on sexual violence to come up with reporting standards. However, it has since confirmed that it will not only publish a report, but work together with Uber on that report. "Once individuals understand we're counting and we're taking note then exactly what is a significantly unreported criminal offense today will end up being more reported- which's an advantage".

In November, law firm Wigdor LLP had proposed a class action lawsuit on behalf of women accusing drivers of sexual assault. Advocates for victims of sexual crimes say forced arbitration clauses, in which matters are settled internally instead of publicly in a court with a judge or jury, make it hard to seek true justice. Uber stated the females will now have the option of bringing their specific attack declares to arbitration, meditation or open court. The women will have to bring other claims in the suit, including unfair business practices, to an arbitrator. The women also asked Uber to waive its arbitration clause.

Beyond Uber, there's been a push to cut down on using forced arbitration by companies.

Uber says it has met with more than 80 women's groups and recruited several prominent advocates as advisers on these issues.

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