Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, seen at a New York conference last month, said the ride-hailing service would no longer require arbitration in cases of allegations of sex abuse, allowing victims to speak openly and pursue claims in court

San Francisco (AFP) - Ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft on Tuesday scrapped policies requiring arbitration over claims of sexual misconduct involving employees, riders and drivers, allowing cases to be heard in public and pursued in open court.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the move was “an important step forward in our commitment to safety and transparency.”

Lyft followed Uber’s lead with a similar announcement just hours later.

Uber, which has faced a number of claims involving sexual assault or misconduct, said it “will no longer require mandatory arbitration for individual claims of sexual assault or sexual harassment by Uber riders, drivers or employees.”

Arbitration clauses have played a role in high-profile settlements involving film mogul Harvey Weinstein and others, enabling accusations and settlements to be made behind closed doors.

Uber chief legal officer Tony West said in the statement that while arbitration “includes many benefits for individuals and companies alike,” the company understands the need for other alternatives.

“We have learned it’s important to give sexual assault and harassment survivors control of how they pursue their claims,” he said.

“So moving forward, survivors will be free to choose to resolve their individual claims in the venue they prefer: in a mediation where they can choose confidentiality; in arbitration, where they can choose to maintain their privacy while pursuing their case; or in open court.”

West added that Uber will not require confidentiality provisions in any settlements.

“Divulging the details of what happened in a sexual assault or harassment should be up to the survivor, not us,” West said.

“So we’re making it clear that Uber will not require confidentiality provisions or non-disclosure agreements to prevent survivors from talking about the facts of what happened to them. Whether to find closure, seek treatment, or become advocates for change themselves, survivors will be in control of whether to share their stories.”

Lyft said it would implement a similar policy.

“The #metoo movement has brought to life important issues that must be addressed by society, and we’re committed to doing our part,” a Lyft spokeswoman said in an email.

“Uber made the good decision to adjust their policies. We agree with the changes and have removed the confidentiality requirement for sexual assault victims, as well as ended mandatory arbitration for those individuals so that they can choose which venue is best for them.”

Lyft said the new policy “extends to passengers, drivers and Lyft employees.”