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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

CPAC Republicans choose conservatism over constituents

Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CPAC proved such a draw, conservative Republicans chose the conference over their constituents.

Why it matters: More than a dozen House Republicans voted by proxy on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in Washington so they could speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. And Sen. Ted Cruz skipped an Air Force One flight as President Biden flew to Cruz's hometown of Houston to survey storm damage.

Border Democrat warns Biden about immigrant fallout

Henry Cuellar (right). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

A Democratic lawmaker representing a border district warned the Biden administration against easing up too much on unauthorized immigrants, citing their impact on his constituents, local hospitals and their potential to spread the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told Axios he supports President Biden. But the moderate said he sees the downsides of efforts to placate pro-immigrant groups, an effort that threatens to blow up on the administration.

3 hours ago - World

Iran rejects nuclear talks with U.S., for now

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at Iran/EU talks in 2015. Photo: Carlos Barria/POOL/AFP via Getty

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that conditions are not ripe for informal nuclear talks between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers.

Why it matters: The Biden administration had proposed the talks as part of its efforts to negotiate a path back to the 2015 nuclear deal. The White House expressed disappointment with Iran's response, but said it remained willing to engage with Tehran.