Uber won praise on May 12, 2018, when it announced it would no longer steer sexual misconduct claims into arbitration. However, the announcement failed to note that the company refrained from any promises that it would free victims from arbitration agreements if their claims are part of class action litigation.
Uber knows very well that class actions are the only way most employees can afford to wage such a legal battle with a corporate giant like Uber. If Uber really wanted to protect its employees, it would do away with mandatory arbitration altogether. Uber knows that it can be difficult for a person that has been harassed to find an attorney to file a case on a contingency fee on an individual basis, unless a truly serious injury has occurred, because the potential damages may not be large enough. However, plaintiffs class action attorneys are much better funded to take on large companies like Uber.
The issue over whether victims of sexual misconduct can be forced to arbitrate their claims has become a hot-button topic following a series of high-profile scandals involving media moguls Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein, which led to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault.
Congress has taken notice of the issue, with a group of bipartisan lawmakers, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introducing the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017 in December. The bill would make it illegal for businesses to enforce workers’ arbitration agreements if their allegations involve either sexual harassment or gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Instead, workers would have the option of taking those types of claims to court.