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The Courts Businesses United States

Uber Drops Arbitration Requirement For Sexual Assault Victims (npr.org) 90

Previously, Uber required complaints to be resolved in mandatory arbitration -- out of court and behind closed doors. Today, the company announced it is "changing its policies to allow customers, employees and drivers who are sexually harassed or assaulted to take their complaints to court and to speak publicly about their experiences," reports NPR. From the report: Last month, Katherine and Lauren were among 14 female victims who sent an open letter to Uber's board, pointing to the company's own sexual harassment problems and the #MeToo movement. "Silencing our stories deprives customers and potential investors from the knowledge that our horrific experiences are part of a widespread problem at Uber," they wrote. The women's demand -- and Uber's response -- highlight the significance of mandatory arbitration agreements, which are increasingly common. The provisions are usually in the fine print -- and most people who sign the agreements don't know they have signed away their right to sue.
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Uber Drops Arbitration Requirement For Sexual Assault Victims

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  • First Steps (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goetterdaemmerung ( 140496 ) on Tuesday May 15, 2018 @09:55PM (#56618370)

    I'm thankful Uber, out of an abundance of caution concerning the potential PR blowup, revised their contracts. These arbitration agreements are going too far and it's time for some common sense regulations.

    It should not be legal to sign away your right to sue simply for a common exchange of goods or services.

    • Re:First Steps (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@wo[ ]3.net ['rld' in gap]> on Tuesday May 15, 2018 @11:13PM (#56618566) Homepage Journal

      I don't understand how it can even be possible to sign away your right to report crimes.

      • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @01:12AM (#56618832) Journal

        The arbitration clause wouldn't affect a criminal case.
        A passenger who felt they were mistreated (rightly or wrongly) could sue Uber for not preventing it somehow, such as by having a more thorough background check of drivers or whatever.

        I say "felt they were mistreated" because in many cases people have different viewpoints. There are instances where a clearly a crime was committed, obviously. This new policy also applies to alleged sexual harassment, though. That's a) not a crime (it is a reason to sue) and b) very, very subjective. The definition of sexual harassment is "unwelcome ...", so while one person might think they are both having fun laughing at a joke, the other person might internally feel the joke is unwelcome, and therefore potentially sexual harassment. The EOEC commission definition of sexual harassment also includes things like "offensive comments about women in general". I think most of us have seen a possibly innocent comment construed as "offensive about women in general", because someone heard something different than what the speaker intended or whatever. So there can be instances where everyone agrees no crime was committed, but one person feels a comment was offensive, and therefore sexual harassment.

        • by houghi ( 78078 )

          It should not affect ANY case, regardless if it was a criminal one or not. It basically takes away rights that you should have.
          I can sign a LOT of things and often a company will try to say "but you signed" and that would only make their case weaker is it is something that is not allowed. It would undermine the rest of the contract and could even mean that the complete contract is annulled.

          And for sure something that says "If you sign here, you can't complain about us" should be illegal as hell and should m

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          TFA says that it affects sexual assault cases. Assault is physical. It's saying that the agreement previously covered sexual touching and violence.

          • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @08:49AM (#56619896) Journal

            > TFA says that it affects sexual assault cases.

            As I recall, TFA links to another article, which in turn links to the actual policy statement. The actual policy covers sexual harassment, which unfortunately has a very subjective definition. Apparently it's very hard to define in a way that everyone is satisfied with.

            > Assault is physical.

            If there is actual touching, that's battery. Assault by itself is an attempt . That's why you typically only hear battery mentioned as "assault and battery" - because if they DID touch, then they first attempted to touch. So you pretty much can't have battery by itself without assault. You hear assault mentioned separately because someone can make an attempt without actually doing it. A problem with assault is one must deduce what was in the person's mind, what they were trying to do. Sometimes that's obvious, sometimes it's not.

            The above are the classical definitions of just "assault" and "battery", without adding "sexual". Battery is touch that intentionally or knowingly causes injury, assault is an attempt to do so.

            Once you get into "sexual assault", the terms used depend on the state. There is no such crime as "sexual assault" in California. It's sexual battery. Sexual assault *would* mean "tried to touch my boobs", but that's not in California law. California (and some other states) have a crime of "sexual battery" - non-consensual touching of sexual body parts for sexual pleasure. Texas is an example of a state which uses the term "sexual assault" for what would more accurately be called sexual battery, or rape.

        • I say "felt they were mistreated" because in many cases people have different viewpoints. There are instances where a clearly a crime was committed, obviously. This new policy also applies to alleged sexual harassment, though. That's a) not a crime (it is a reason to sue) and b) very, very subjective. The definition of sexual harassment is "unwelcome ...", so

          ...don't fucking hit on passengers in your cab unless they hit on you first, so you aren't taking advantage of people in a situation they're stuck in.

          • Why do rapists have modpoints anyway? When you take sexual advantage of a captive audience, you're being rapey AF

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Maybe because that's not RAPE. Jesus Christ. Look up the definition.

              Hitting on someone in a cab is not fucking rape Jesus Christ. Rape is physically penetrating someone without their approval. Trying to OR having sex with someone without their approval.

              If you are driving a cab and have a passenger, and you say " damn you have some nice legs" that is not rape. It may not be appropriate, but it isn't a crime and it isn't rape. If the women doesn't like it; she can tell him to pull over and let her out. If he

              • Maybe because that's not RAPE. Jesus Christ. Look up the definition.

                Right, it's just a typical prelude to pushing people's boundaries. Someone who doesn't respect someone else's feelings is acting that way for a reason. Now learn to read, lad: I didn't say that hitting a captive audience was rape. I said it was rapey behavior. Learn to respect others. It doesn't matter if you can feel what they feel, accept that they feel it and learn to behave yourself in a way that isn't abusive to others.

                People who will take advantage of people in one way rarely stop there.

          • > don't fucking hit on passengers in your cab unless they hit on you first

            Well yeah.

            I don't know about your friends, but most of my friends are really, really bad at knowing if someone is hitting on them. Some think people are when they aren't, most don't see it when someone is. That creates two opportunities for confusion with "don't hit on people in your cab unless they hit on you first". Was the driver hitting on the passenger? Maybe. Was the passenger flirting with the driver? Whichever he thinks, ye

            • I pretty much flirt with all girls ages 1-120 outside of work. I am not sure how to speak with a girl without "flirting". A lot of the behavior being referenced here probably falls more into attempts at foreplay than flirting. I think part of the problem is that traditional social norms are kind of completely up in the air. No one really knows what to do or where the lines are.
          • ...don't fucking hit on passengers in your cab unless they hit on you first, so you aren't taking advantage of people in a situation they're stuck in.

            How about just don't. Full stop. You have someone semi-trapped in your vehicle, with the ability to take them anywhere against their will. This is not a place to be finding your next date.

    • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Tuesday May 15, 2018 @11:19PM (#56618584)
      they didn't do this out of the kindness of their heart. They're afraid they'll lose the ability to force their drivers and regular customers who get in wreaks into arbitration over this.

      If you don't like arbitration contracts you'll need to change who gets elected. Kick the Republicans (who voted to allow companies to mandated it) and the corporate Dems like Pelosi & Schumer who did too. So far only the Bernie & Warren wing of the Democratic party has offered any serious opposition...
    • Re:First Steps (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Waccoon ( 1186667 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @01:43AM (#56618910)

      Now if only we can get the entire rest of the USA to follow suit. Binding arbitration is one of the worst fashion trends ever to infect corporate culture.

      Bonus points if we can get the SCOTUS to admit they screwed up.

  • WTH is arbitration? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by schweini ( 607711 ) on Tuesday May 15, 2018 @10:20PM (#56618416)
    Can anyone explain how arbitration clauses work? How can a company limit an employee's rights to proceed legally against a company in case of criminal conduct?
    That doesn't seem to make sense?
    • I believe it only works against civil suits as its the DA's office that prosecutes, not an individual.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Simple, our courts are dead asleep at the switch.

      A cornerstone of our society is that the COURTS are the final resolver of disputes. They are actively abdicating by allowing arbitration clauses.

      • THIS. I don't understand how in 2018, societies allow arbitration to be a thing. It's shocking that this victorian/gilded age anachronism is still allowed to exist. Just kill it with fire before it lays eggs.

    • making Arbitration legally binding. I forget the name of the law, but it passed with good 'ole "Bipartisan" support, meaning with Republicans and what we call "Corporate" Democrats (e.g. Democrats who side with corporations over workers). There's a small wing of the Democratic party that opposed it but there's so much corporate cash in politics now and so many wedge issues (guns, abortion, gay rights) that economic issues mostly gets drowned out and when they do make it front and center people get the wool
      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        Someone should file a suit and appeal it all the way to SCOTUS.

        Such a law is clearly unconstitutional. See the Seventh Amendment.

        • Well there's plenty of things that are clearly unconstitutional but SCOTUS pretends otherwise because too many people (well, people that matter) would be upset about it. See: Commerce clause allows police to arrest you for plant grown on own land for personal use legally under state law; a dog trained to please its master 'alerting' is a reasonable grounds for search; the entire war on drugs in general; civil asset forfeiture; permanently revoking from a free person a civil right granted in the Bill of Righ
    • by clovis ( 4684 )

      Can anyone explain how arbitration clauses work? How can a company limit an employee's rights to proceed legally against a company in case of criminal conduct? There are rules for arbitration clauses and a federal law. There are some rights that just cannot be signed away, and matters involving serious crimes (such as assault) in one of them.
      I suspect that when Uber's lawyers took a look at the situation, they knew the courts would not support mandatory arbitration for victims of rape and assault, so

      That doesn't seem to make sense?

      This isn't about employees. It is some passengers who have been assaulted and/or raped that think criminal actions by Uber drivers should not be restricted to mandatory arbitration.

      Here is Uber's arbitration clause. Have you ever used Uber? If so then you agreed to this.
      https://www.uber.com/legal/ter... [uber.com]

      A company can put anything into a contract, but courts shoot down unenforceable or unconscionable clauses all the time.
      I suspect that when Uber's lawyers realized that trying to enforce mandatory arbitration

    • How can a company limit an employee's rights to proceed legally against a company in case of criminal conduct?

      They can't. But then that should be no surprise coming from a company with such a good understanding of how to obey the law like Uber.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Can anyone explain how arbitration clauses work? How can a company limit an employee's rights to proceed legally against a company in case of criminal conduct? That doesn't seem to make sense?

      If you get raped by an Uber driver then that driver can be criminally tried and convicted by the DA's office. But unless Uber is a co-conspirator or accessory to the rape which is rather unlikely they won't be on trial for that. They want to sue Uber for negligence, which can be both civil and criminal but criminal negligence is typically when you have a formal duty of care like a driver, doctor or parent. Like if your Uber driver was drunk and crashed with you in it, that would be a case of criminal neglig

  • The victims don't. What ever comes up in arbitration, no matter what uber says, should be revealed since it will harm Uber and possibly cripple them. Their victims lives are already ruined. Use the MAD option. In addition if Uber is hiding a crime the contract is invalid.

  • changing its policies to allow customers, employees and drivers who are sexually harassed or assaulted

    I'm sure this goes without saying, but Uber have no idea how laws work.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The notion that ordinary consumers are capable of informed consent when entering into services with huge corporations is laughable. Even if people read the huge contracts many wouldn't understand them.

    The analog here is statutory rape. We don't accept consent from minors because they are not in a position to make a good decision in the first place. Mega-corps occupy a similar unbalanced place of power vs an individual.

  • I see this all over the place and it is royally fucked up. If I say "John stole my car" that does not make me a victim of theft. It makes me an accuser. and it does not make John a thief, it makes him an alleged thief.

    Imagine I demand that white people accusing black people of crimes should be "just believed" and call any white accuser a victim. Would that not be vile and racist? So how is "listen and believe" not vile and sexist? Those accusing people of sexual crimes (male or female, because there are fe
  • The easiest way to tell if a rule/law/ordinance/convention is reasonable, is to consider what would happen if everyone complied with it. Would the world be a better or worse place? In the case of "User Agreements", if everyone read them in their entirety, the economy would grind to a halt overnight as person after person worked their way through one 47-page hyperlinked document after another. Not to mention all of the indirect documents they would supposedly need to read ... and they would need to "check
  • It is no longer possible to enforce a punitive NDA or an arbitration that restricts disclosure of sexual harassment or abuse. The legal and PR consequences will prove disastrous.

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