Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal is now calling on the ride-hailing company, Uber, to release the survivors of these assaults from arbitration agreements and allow them to seek justice in court.
“I challenge you to finally demonstrate how seriously you take the issue of sexual harassment and assault,” said Blumenthal in a letter to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. “Your company must lead by example and show that it values transparency and your users’ safety more than your company’s bottom line. I respectfully request that you immediately stop enforcing arbitration agreements against individuals who bring claims of sexual harassment or assault. More broadly, I urge you to end your use of these dangerous agreements against your customers.”
“Forced arbitration clauses,” wrote Blumenthal, “also prevent victims from joining class-action suits. They disadvantage consumers for the benefit of large corporations and can also deter victims from seeking justice in the first place.” The letter also points out that Microsoft has voluntarily ended its practice of using arbitration agreements in the case of sexual harassment, and calls on Uber to do the right thing and follow suit. “A company that is focused on its customers should be working to protect their rights, not to eliminate them.”
“Claims subject to forced arbitration are relegated to private forums where powerful defendants can stack the deck against claimants and cover up wrongdoing,” Blumenthal added. “Many potential claimants respond to this prospect by declining to file claims in the first place, leaving bad conduct undeterred.”
This move comes in response to an exclusive CNN investigation published on Monday that stated that there are 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. The drivers were either arrested, are wanted by police, or have been named in civil suits related to the incidents.
In a statement, Uber said Wednesday that “sexual assault has no place anywhere, and we are committed to doing our part to end this violence.”
While there is no publicly available data for the number of sexual assaults by Uber drivers or drivers of other rideshare companies, CNN found that at least 31 drivers have been convicted for crimes ranging from forcible touching and false imprisonment to rape, and dozens of criminal and civil cases are pending.