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Illustration: Sam Jayne/Axios

In a surprise move, Uber said on Tuesday it is changing its long-standing policy of mandatory arbitration to exempt employees, drivers, and riders in cases of sexual harassment and assault.

Why it matters: Mandatory arbitration clauses for employees and customers have been criticized (including by Uber whistleblower Susan Fowler) because companies can use them to keep victims silent and hide potentially illegal activities.

Victims will now have the choice of venue to pursue their claims of sexual harassment or assault — mediation, arbitration, or open court.

  • However, there's a caveat: The exemption only applies to individual claims and not class actions lawsuits. So the group of women who recently asked Uber's board to release them from arbitration clauses will only be able to sue the company for certain claims, and only as individuals.
  • Employees have been able to opt out of the arbitration clause since 2016, and drivers have been able to since 2013 (so this change is largely of benefit to riders).

Victims will no longer be required to sign a confidentiality agreement covering the facts of the harassment or assault as part of a settlement.

  • Uber says this is intended to allow victims to share their stories while also pursuing legal remedy and not have to choose between the two or feel silenced.
  • The caveat: The terms of any settlement, such as the amount of money a victim receives from Uber, will remain confidential.

Uber also commits to eventually releasing a report that will include data about sexual harassment and assault incidents that occur via its services, and potentially include other types of safety incidents.

  • There's no specific release date yet, but a spokesperson tells Axios that chief legal office Tony West hopes it will be done within the next year.
  • Uber says that because there's no precedent from other similar transportation companies, its first step is to work with experts in crafting a framework and methodology for how to analyze and interpret the data.

Yes, but: While this is certainly a significant step towards meeting criticisms of Uber's practices, there's still a lot that the company isn't backing down from, such as class action lawsuits. The move also doesn't cover other issues, like pay discrimination.

Go deeper

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID-related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.