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Uber Sexual Assault Victims Are Fighting to Have their Case Heard

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According to new reports, Uber has been hit with a class-action lawsuit.  The lawsuit argues that Uber has attempted to silence passengers who have been assaulted by drivers – thus forcing them to settle cases through arbitration.  This process usually involves confidentiality agreements, which means that the victims are not able to talk about what happened to them.  What does this mean?  Well, exactly as it says – any of the victims who are suing Uber, aren’t allowed to talk about it.

There are nine women who are involved in the case, and they are saying that they want to “force Uber to acknowledge that this is happening and to do something about it”.  That is according to attorney Jeanne M. Christensen.  Here’s the kicker though.  According to Uber, if you sign up for the service, you agree to private arbitration.  Thus, forfeiting your right to talk.  Which means, these women don’t have a case.

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That’s kind of shady, isn’t it?  I mean, they’re saying when you sign up for the service that regardless of what happens, you’re going to go through private arbitration.  How many other services does this apply to?  Uber emailed the Guardian and had this to say:

“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.”

How did this get started?  Two women sued Uber on the assertion that the company’s policies failed to protect them and others from sexual misconduct, and they wanted to have their case heard by a jury.  But, as I mentioned above, Uber is saying that they can’t.  These two women say they were raped by their Uber drivers, and as a result of the arbitration, they filed a class action lawsuit in November.  Their argument was that Uber failed to conduct rigid enough background checks on drivers and also didn’t have adequate safety policies.

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Uber then responded in February by filing a motion that said all the class-action members are legally bound by arbitration.  On Thursday, the plaintiff’s attorney’s filed an amended lawsuit, which then added seven more women to the complaint.  The amended lawsuit states:

“In gutless fashion, Uber responded to this lawsuit by attempting to force Jane Does, and all other similarly harmed women passengers, to cede their right to the public court system and force them into the soundless halls of arbitration.”

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Uber’s terms of service states:

“By agreeing to the Terms, you agree that you are required to resolve any claim that you may have against Uber on an individual basis in arbitration, as set forth in this Arbitration Agreement. This will preclude you from bringing any class, collective, or representative action against Uber, and also preclude you from participating in or recovering relief under any current or future class, collective, consolidated, or representative action brought against Uber by someone else.”

Apparently, Uber isn’t the only one who uses a forced-arbitration clause in their terms of service.  Lyft also does this as well.  In fact, forced-arbitration isn’t even unique to ridesharing apps – it’s a common practice inside a lot of businesses within the technology world.  And – surprise – this practice often favors the corporation.

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