The past 12 months have been a period of widespread change at Uber. After just 8 weeks on the job, our CEO Dara Khosrowshahi introduced a new mantra to employees: “We do the right thing, period.” Accomplishing that requires three key elements: transparency, integrity, and accountability.
With these principles in mind, earlier this year we began making significant improvements to our safety processes. We strengthened our driver screenings by committing to proactively re-run criminal background and motor vehicle checks each year, and we are investing in new technology that can notify us when a driver is involved in criminal activity. But we didn’t stop there: we’ve added a feature that allows riders to share live trip information with up to five trusted contacts, so there are multiple sets of eyes on each ride. And we’re rolling out a new emergency button in the app that can automatically communicate the car’s location to a 911 center.
But maintaining the public’s trust, and earning back the respect of customers we’ve lost through our past actions and behavior, is about more than new products and policies. It requires self-reflection and a willingness to challenge orthodoxies of the past.
Every day, Uber connects 15 million trips around the world. At that scale, our service ultimately reflects the world in which we operate—both the good and the bad. And it’s clear that sexual violence remains a huge problem globally. The last 18 months have exposed a silent epidemic of sexual assault and harassment that haunts every industry and every community.
Uber is not immune to this deeply rooted problem, and we believe that it is up to us to be a big part of the solution. With that in mind, we’re making some important changes today.
First, we will no longer require mandatory arbitration for individual claims of sexual assault or sexual harassment by Uber riders, drivers or employees.
Arbitration has an important role in the American justice system and includes many benefits for individuals and companies alike. Arbitration is not a settlement (cases are decided on their merits), and, unless the parties agree to keep the process confidential, it does not prevent survivors from speaking out about their experience.
But we have learned it’s important to give sexual assault and harassment survivors control of how they pursue their claims. So moving forward, survivors will be free to choose to resolve their individual claims in the venue they prefer: in a mediation where they can choose confidentiality; in arbitration, where they can choose to maintain their privacy while pursuing their case; or in open court. Whatever they decide, they will be free to tell their story wherever and however they see fit.
Second, survivors will now have the option to settle their claims with Uber without a confidentiality provision that prevents them from speaking about the facts of the sexual assault or sexual harassment they suffered.
Confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements also have an appropriate role in resolving legal disputes. Often they help expedite resolution because they give both sides comfort that certain information (such as the settlement amount) will remain confidential. And frequently, survivors insist on broad confidentiality in order to preserve their privacy.
But divulging the details of what happened in a sexual assault or harassment should be up to the survivor, not us. So we’re making it clear that Uber will not require confidentiality provisions or non-disclosure agreements to prevent survivors from talking about the facts of what happened to them. Whether to find closure, seek treatment, or become advocates for change themselves, survivors will be in control of whether to share their stories. Enabling survivors to make this choice will help to end the culture of silence that surrounds sexual violence.
Third, we commit to publishing a safety transparency report that will include data on sexual assaults and other incidents that occur on the Uber platform.
We believe transparency fosters accountability. But truthfully, this was a decision we struggled to make, in part because data on safety and sexual assaults is sparse and inconsistent. In fact, there is no data to reliably or accurately compare reports against Uber drivers versus taxi drivers or limo drivers, or Uber versus buses, subways, airplanes or trains. And when it comes to categorizing this data for public release, no uniform industry standard for reporting exists today.
Making things even more complicated, sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime, with two out of three assaults going unreported to police.
But we decided we can’t let all of that hold us back. That’s why we’ve met more than 80 women’s groups and recruited advisors like Ebony Tucker of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Cindy Southworth of the National Network to End Domestic Violence and Tina Tchen, one of the founders of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund and partner at Buckley Sandler LLP to advise us on these issues.
We’re working with experts in the field to develop a taxonomy to categorize the incidents that are reported to us. We hope to open-source this methodology so we can encourage others in the ridesharing, transportation and travel industries, both private and public, to join us in taking this step. We know that a project of this magnitude will take some time, but we pledge to keep you updated along the way.
Dara recently said that sexual predators often look for a dark corner. Our message to the world is that we need to turn the lights on. It starts with improving our product and policies, but it requires so much more, and we’re in it for the long haul. Together, we can make meaningful progress towards ending sexual violence. Our commitment to you is that when we say we stand for safety, we mean it.
If you or someone you know is seeking care and support, please consider contacting one of our partners (NO MORE, Raliance, National Network to End Domestic Violence, A CALL TO MEN, Casa de Esperanza, Women of Color Network, Inc. and The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs), or calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233).