Is Uber Hiding Rape and Sexual Harassment Charges by Forcing Victims into Arbitration?

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(Harry) #1

In a recent and ongoing class-action lawsuit trial in the state of California, records are showing that the claimants are accusing Uber of trying to hide sexual harassment and rape charge issues by force settling the claims before they reach court, thereby dampening public accessibility to the information.

The main issue of the case is around the fact that Uber is charged with forcing claimants to seek resolution through arbitration, and not in a group, but as an individual in each and every case. Arbitration is a private and confidential process that usually ends up being sealed from public scrutiny after a joint agreement has been reached.

The current case is supported by nine female victims who wish to act a representative to all women that have suffered or experienced sexual harassment and violence while riding or driving in an Uber car. Their aim is to force Uber into taking preventative measures and improve women's safety in a rideshare.

Jeanne M Christensen, partner at Wigdor LLP, the attorney for the nine women is charging Uber to acknowledge what is happening. While Uber's legal counsel is trying to rely on the legal mechanisms that Silicon Valley has adopted and integrated fully into their corporate culture. What was once true for the 1980's is not so true for today, and was definitely not right then, as it is not right now. Arbitration is a useful tool for dealing with various disputes, but it is not the tool to use for criminal offenses where sexual offenders can get out of trouble in a system that prevents the continuation of the process in court. Another issue for Arbitration is that it as integrated into a system that sought privacy, where trade secrets and patents are Gods. What Uber has done, is adopt this process onto a segment of social conduct that needs to be both public as well as legally decided upon by a peer of jury members.

The former Uber Engineer, Susan Fowler, who was the spark that sent Travis Kalanick back home in July 2017, has been trying to eradicate the arbitration process from sexual and violence related crimes. Claiming that Uber uses arbitration to silence the victims and keep the truth from reaching the public's ears.

One of the attorneys representing the nine women is Jeanne M Christensen; she stated for the record that "Our clients deserve a trial. The goal is to force Uber to acknowledge that this is happening and to do something about it."

Christensen argues that Uber uses arbitration to silence the number of complaints that come into Uber, thereby not revealing to the public or the regulators how many women are really involved in sexually related incidents. She claims that Uber is forcing women to sign non-disclosure agreements that are all aimed to silence women.

There are many cases of Uber drivers being involved in sexual harassment cases, most of them are untold, but the few that reach the public include the case of an Uber driver that carried his drunk passenger into her home. After he dropped her off, he raped her, at least that is what the driver is accused of. In another case in LA, a driver is allegedly charged with assaulting a passenger who fell asleep in his car during the ride. In a more intense case, a 26-year plaintiff from SF accused her driver from pushing his way into her home and raping her.

According to Christensen, When these stories reach the public, women are "horrified and shocked that this is what happened to them, and they are also horrified that people aren't talking about it and that Uber has been fairly successful at keeping it out of the news."

Uber has released a statement by e-mail, saying "The allegations brought forth, in this case, are important to us and we take them very seriously. Arbitration is the appropriate venue for this case because it allows the plaintiffs to publicly speak out as much as they want and have control over their individual privacy at the same time."

This case will pull a lot of attention since Uber is trying to change its public image and one way of changing how the public view Uber is by providing full transparency. Arbitration is the opposite and proves that Uber is not interested in changing its secretive and bad ways. As an associate law professor at the University of California Veena Dubal claims that the action suit claimants "want the public and the state and Uber to recognize that their experiences are not random. They are the result of a structural problem. … They want Uber to make changes."

This is supported by LegalRidesare attorney Bryant Greening, who stated to the media that "Uber has an interest in removing these cases from the public eye. It's despicable … It's a public safety issue, and it's an issue that's relevant to our community."

My take on this: Dara Khosrowshahi should agree with this issue, but must create a stable environment for his driver, male and female. This means that he has to install security options that will assure drivers are not falsely accused, and that there is full evidence to support all claims. This means that drivers must follow stringent rules that include:

  1. Attach a dash cam in your car and have it record every ride from the moment a ride starts till it is over.
  2. Never leave your car for anyone, unless it is to help disabled or putting luggage in the trunk of the car.
  3. If you did get out of the car, never walk onto a passenger's property and definitely never enter their house.
  4. If a driver thinks that the passenger might confuse their actions for sexual assault, make sure they have the dash cam on, as well as a mobile device recording all audio on their body at all times during the encounter with the passenger.

Just by following these four simple rules, drivers will be able to mitigate most claims against them.


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(Andrew Martin) #2

The arbitration issue is a very big one, but one that all drivers and passengers sign up on when joining Uber. This does not mean that they cannot be changed in the future. The issue of arbitration in sex cases is complex, and from a non-legal point of view I think is illegal. This means that you cannot take a state or federal crime and hide it behind arbitration. Once a claim for sexual harassment or violence, and especially rape is made, it has to go through the legal channels, which includes law enforcement and the criminal justice system. If Uber has hidden actual sexual crimes behind arbitration scenes, then Uber, in my opinion, is liable for miscarriage of justice.


(Ian) #3

yes, Uber is using arbitration for illegal purposes and yes, the new Uber is not much of a difference from the old. You can change a few people, but the same shit still holds.