Court documents reveal that the company wants to force women to settle lawsuits through arbitration, and not in court.
Uber argues that by accepting the conditions of access to the platform, users waived the right to file a lawsuit.
Uber is trying to force women who reported sexual attacks at the hands of company drivers to settle their claims behind closed doors and not in court. Critics say that this movement silences the victims and protects the company from public scrutiny.
Court documents in a class action lawsuit in California revealed that the travel-sharing company has alleged that women who reveal they have been raped in an Uber must settle their cases through arbitration, a private process that often results in confidential settlements.
Nine women from the US have joined the case. They seek to represent all women who have been attacked or who have experienced violence in Uber cars with the hope of pressuring the corporation to reform and improve the protection of female passengers.
Uber, however, has filed a motion defending that the passengers agreed to privately arbitrate all disputes when they enrolled in the shared transportation service and, therefore, have no right to file a lawsuit.
Uber's attorneys rely on a legal mechanism that has stumbled on the intense scrutiny that has occurred in Silicon Valley in the past year since the #MeToo movement revealed inappropriate sexual behavior in US workplaces and also in Hollywood.
Arbitration clauses have prevented victims of sexual harassment and discrimination from pursuing their claims, allowing companies to avoid public trials. Those who criticize Uber's position claim that all this makes it easier for serial criminals to keep their job and find new victims.
Susan Fowler, ex-manager of Uber whose viral account of sexual harassment triggered a final judgment on harassment in the technology industry dominated by men, has pushed for an end to arbitration agreements.
In December, Microsoft became the first major technology company to announce that it would eliminate forced arbitration, admitting that "silencing people's voice" can perpetuate inappropriate sexual behavior.
They ask Uber to react now
"Our clients deserve a trial," says Jeanne Christensen, one of the lawyers in the class action lawsuit who has filed a motion on Thursday to fight against Uber's attempts to force women into arbitration. "The goal is to force Uber to recognize that this is happening and do something about it."
Christensen argued that arbitration processes prevent the population from finding out about the frequency and severity of violations and attacks that occur at the hands of Uber drivers, and inevitably results in confidential agreements that silence women and that they make women less likely to talk.
In the case of a Miami plaintiff, an Uber driver took a drunk passenger to her home where she raped her, according to the complaint. A driver in Los Angeles is accused of attacking another plaintiff when she fell asleep in her car. Another San Francisco whistleblower said that an Uber driver broke into his apartment block and groped her.
The women are "horrified and shocked by what has happened to them, they are also horrified that people do not talk about this and that Uber has been able to hide all these cases from the media," Christensen points out.
"The accusations presented in this case are important to us and we take them very seriously." Arbitration is the appropriate course for these cases because it allows plaintiffs to speak publicly as much as they want and to have control over their individual privacy at the same time. "said an Uber spokesperson by email.
The spokesperson, however, did not answer questions about whether resolution agreements through arbitration allow women to publicly disclose their case or whether they include the usual confidentiality clauses. Christensen also noted that women already have control over their privacy. The complainants are listed anonymously in the lawsuit and identified as "Jane Doe."
Veena Dubal, an assistant professor of law at the University of California, Hastings, who has defended the rights of some Uber drivers, said she had interviews with drivers who had filed complaints against the company and subsequently could not talk anymore. with her because of her conciliation agreements.
The people involved in the class action against Uber "want society, the State, and Uber to recognize that their experiences are not isolated cases," says Dubal. "They are the result of a structural problem and they want Uber to make changes."
Uber drivers have also accused the company of having abandoned them several times when they were attacked by passengers. Lawyers say that agreements through arbitration can make it harder for them to seek justice.
"Uber is not interested in making these cases public," adds Bryant Greening, a LegalRideshare attorney who represents Uber passengers and drivers. "It's a matter of public safety and relevant to our community.”
The above article was written and published in Spanish and has been translated into English. Click here to read the original article.
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