At the beginning of February, the Senate passed a bill to end forced arbitration in sexual assault and harassment cases in the workplace.
To better understand the importance of this, first, let us define “arbitration” and “forced arbitration”.
Arbitration itself is defined as “a procedure in which dispute is submitted, by agreement of the parties, to one or more arbitrators who make a binding decision on the dispute.” Arbitration is an alternative solution to going to court and results in a private dispute resolution.
Typically, the principal characteristics of arbitration are that it is consensual, neutral, the parties choose the arbitrator, it is a confidential procedure, and the decision of the arbitral tribunal is final and easy to enforce.
Arbitration can be beneficial, however, forced arbitration in the workplace can be extremely limiting to employees. Forced arbitration is when “a company requires a consumer or employee to submit any dispute that may arise to binding arbitration as a condition of employment or buying a product or service.” Forced arbitration is mandatory and requires the employee or consumer to waive their right to sue, to participate in a class-action lawsuit, or to appeal. The arbitrator’s decision is final, binding, and not made public record.
The bill that the Senate passed earlier this month, known as the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, would end forced arbitration in the workplace, therefore, allowing survivors of these types of cases to file lawsuits in court against their perpetrators. This bill would prohibit employers from forcing workers to settle sexual misconduct cases in closed-door arbitration and end agreements between employees and employers that previously required employees to waive their rights to sue in the case of sexual assault or harassment.
Forced arbitration in cases such as these, was a way of silencing the survivors and protecting corporations by allowing them to essentially hide sexual assault and harassment cases by keeping them private and out of court. It truly lacked accountability for the perpetrators and justice for the survivors.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said this bill will become one of the most significant workplace reforms in American history and help to fix a broken system.
The bill is now waiting to be signed into law by President Biden, and once done, will be effective immediately.
At Diller Law, we stand up for the members of our communities. We work to right wrongdoings and to fight for justice. This bill would be one step that will help members in our community have the opportunity to receive justice.