Uber said Tuesday it would end the company's practice of mandatory arbitration for claims of sexual assault and harassment by riders, drivers or employees. File photo Will Oliver/EPA-EFE
May 15 (UPI) -- Uber will end its practice of mandatory arbitration for claims of sexual assault and harassment by riders, drivers or employees, the company said Tuesday.
In a statement, the ride-hailing company said the last 18 months exposed a "silent epidemic of sexual assault and harassment" that Uber "is not immune to."
In April, a CNN investigation found there were at least 103 Uber drivers in the United States who have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years.
"We have learned it's important to give sexual assault and harassment survivors control of how they pursue their claims," Uber said. "So moving forward, survivors will be free to choose to resolve their individual claims in the venue they prefer."
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.
Uber will also provide survivors with the option to settle their claims with the company without a confidentiality provision that prevents them from speaking about the facts of the sexual assault or sexual harassment.
Similar to nondisclosure agreements, arbitration agreements have individuals forfeit their right to sue in court and keep disputes confidential.
"Divulging the details of what happened in a sexual assault or harassment should be up to the survivor, not us," Uber said.
The company added it would publish a safety transparency report that will include data on sexual assaults and other incidents that occur on the Uber platform.
In recent months, Uber added safety measures to help protect passengers and drivers. In April, the company added a 911 emergency button and promised to strengthen driver background checks.
"Our message to the world is that we need to turn the lights on," Uber said.