SAN FRANCISCO — Uber said on Tuesday that it was eliminating forced arbitration agreements for employees, riders and drivers who make sexual assault or harassment claims against the company.
Before they could use Uber’s ride-hailing app, customers have had to consent to a terms-of-service agreement that required them to resolve any legal claims with the company in an arbitration hearing, rather than in open court. Now, customers can take those claims to court, the company said.
The decision to yield to pressure from critics who had pushed Uber to forgo the controversial legal practice is the company’s latest move to improve its badly tarnished image since Dara Khosrowshahi took over as chief executive last August.
With hopes for an initial public offering sometime in 2019, Uber is eager to move past a series of scandals that rocked the company over the past year and is trying to distance itself from behavior that prompted a grass-roots campaign urging riders to #DeleteUber.
On Monday, Uber started an advertising campaign featuring Mr. Khosrowshahi and a message that the company was “moving forward” in a new direction.
That new direction includes ending the use of forced arbitration agreements. The practice — common to many industries — has been denounced for allowing companies to keep sexual misconduct claims out of the court system and away from public view. Because the claims are kept under wraps in confidential hearings, critics say bad behavior is allowed to perpetuate without warning to future victims.
Uber already allows drivers and employees to get out of arbitration agreements, as long as they opt out within the first 30 days of signing a contract with the company. The changes detailed on Tuesday will also eliminate that 30-day requirement.
In a blog post, Uber said anyone bringing a sexual assault or harassment claim against the company would not be forced into arbitration and could pursue the matter in court. Uber also did away with a clause requiring people who settle such claims with Uber to sign a nondisclosure agreement that would forbid them from speaking about their experience.
“It’s important to give sexual assault, and harassment survivors control…
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