Uber will no longer forbid passengers, drivers and employees from speaking publicly about sexual harassment or assault complaints they bring against the ride-hailing giant, the company announced Tuesday.
Uber will continue to require nondisclosure agreements when it comes to the specifics of financial settlements. And racial and gender discrimination complaints will be resolved in private.
Uber also said it plans to release a report as early as next year on the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault on the platform.
The decision to end forced arbitration and openly combat sexual harassment and assault marks a major shift for the company, which has faced a stream of misconduct allegations in recent years.
• The company gained a reputation for rampant sexism last year after Susan Fowler, a former engineer, wrote a viral blog post about harassment and retaliation she said she faced on the job.
• Uber subsequently launched an investigation into its corporate environment, which led to the firing of 20 staffers for sexual harassment, bullying and other causes.
• Last November, two anonymous women in California filed a class-action lawsuit in California that alleges the $72 billion company has failed to protect passengers from sexual predators.
• In April, a CNN analysis of police reports and court records found that at least 103 Uber drivers in the United States have been accused of some form of sexual assault in the past four years. (The outlet reported that 31 drivers have been convicted of sexual crimes, including forcible touching and rape.)
More than half of American workers have signed employment contracts that bar them from suing their employer for sexual harassment, gender or racial discrimination, according to a 2017 study from the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.
Critics say forced arbitration shields predators and promotes a culture of silence.
In December, Microsoft announced that it would allow employees to sue the company for sexual harassment, rather than handle the matter behind closed doors. Microsoft encouraged other companies to do the same.
This past April, California state leaders introduced a bill that would bar companies from requiring workers to settle complaints in arbitration.
Prior to Tuesday’s announcement, Uber had faced pressure from lawmakers to waive binding arbitration for sexual harassment complaints.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) argued in a letter to Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who took the helm eight months ago, that the practice allows corporations to “cover up wrongdoing.”
Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, said Uber’s step reflects a shift in corporate America. “It’s how a company is going to need to act if they want to regain public trust,” he said.
In Uber’s case, the company is trying to win back riders lost to Lyft, which doubled its ridership last year after the sexual harassment complaints.