Uber will give its US passengers and drivers more leeway to pursue claims of sexual misconduct, its latest attempt to shed its reputation for brushing aside bad behavior, reports the AP. The shift announced Tuesday will allow riders and drivers to file allegations of rape, sexual assault, and harassment in courts and mediation, rather than being locked into an arbitration hearing. The San Francisco company is also scrapping a policy requiring all settlements of sexual misconduct to be kept confidential, giving victims the choice of whether they want to make their allegations public. It's a conciliatory step from CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who's vowed to "do the right thing" to repair damage from previous missteps, including a wave of revelations and allegations about rampant sexual harassment at Uber and the cover-up of a massive data breach.
The changes come a month after Uber announced it will do criminal background checks on US drivers annually and add a 911 button for emergencies. It's an effort to reassure its riders and address concerns that it hadn't done enough to keep crooks from using its service to prey on potential victims. A rep for Raliance, a coalition of groups working with Uber to prevent sexual abuse, says riders may now be more emboldened to report inappropriate behavior. By the end of the year, Uber will start to publicly report incidents of alleged sexual misconduct and "we think the numbers are going to be disturbing," its chief legal officer says. A lawyer representing at least 14 women suing Uber over sexual assault allegations applauded Tuesday's announcement but said an effort to fight class-action status for the women shows Uber is "not fully committed to meaningful change." (Read more Uber stories.)