The Senate approved today that would prevent companies from requiring forced arbitration in cases of sexual misconduct or harassment. The approval is a significant victory for the #MeToo movement, essentially allowing millions of women to take workplace sexual misconduct cases to court rather than settling the issues internally. The legislation, which passed unanimously on Thursday, is now on its way to President Joe Biden’s desk for signature.
“Survivors of sexual assault or workplace harassment will not come forward and will be told that they are legally prohibited from suing their employer because somewhere buried in their employment contracts was this forced arbitration clause,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said. (D-NY) at a press conference. Gillibrand, a vocal advocate in the field of sexual harassment law, co-authored the bill along with Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC).
Notably, the bill had unanimous support among both Republicans and Democrats in Congress; a rare feat in this current political climate. Like Political grades, many GOP lawmakers have taken heart on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace following a surge of interest in the #MeToo movement. Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson until incited Republican lawmakers to support the bill.
Many companies have forced arbitration clauses into their employment contracts, which require employees to waive their right to appear in court if they are harmed by their employer. Instead, the worker and employer must resolve disputes in a process known as arbitration, which is often private and administered by a third party.
More public awareness of the macho and male-dominated culture in Silicon Valley, as well as employee activism, has forced many tech companies to reassess their sexual harassment policies. Several Big Tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft have forced arbitration in recent years after facing backlash. Top video game developers like and followed suit. Microsoft has even lobbied in support of legislation to end forced arbitration.
Many in favor of forced arbitration believe that it allows companies and employees to save money on court costs. But proponents of the practice argue that it inherently benefits the perpetrator, essentially preventing plaintiffs from speaking publicly about workplace harassment and keeping any testimony, evidence or documents used in the arbitration process completely secret.
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