Earlier this month, United States Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Lindsey Graham introduced bipartisan legislation that would prohibit employers from requiring workers who suffer sexual harassment to arbitrate their claims. S. 2203, titled “The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017,” would amend Title 9 of the United States Code to void arbitration clauses that prohibit victims of workplace sexual harassment from seeking a judicial remedy. The proposed bill was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on the day it was introduced. Although a bill summary is not yet available, the proposed text may be viewed on the Congress.gov website.
A press release published by Senator Graham states:
Today, an estimated 60 million Americans are subject to forced arbitration clauses in their employment contracts. The bipartisan legislation would void forced arbitration agreements that require arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination claims and allow survivors of sexual harassment or discrimination to seek justice, discuss their cases publicly, and eliminate institutional protection for harassers.
“To expect change without pushing for change is unrealistic,” said Senator Graham. “This legislation takes off the table the ability of employers to mandate arbitration before claims even arise. Mandatory arbitration employment contracts put the employee at a severe disadvantage. I do not oppose arbitration — if the parties willingly consent to the process. Ensuring that sexual harassment and assault claims cannot be negotiated away before they occur will create incentives to change the workplace environment, making it less hostile and more respectful.”
Interestingly, Microsoft Corporation has reportedly endorsed the proposed legislation. According to a blog post authored by the company’s President and Chief Legal Officer, Brad Smith, the Washington-based Fortune 100 Corporation is immediately “waiving the contractual requirement for arbitration of sexual harassment claims in our own arbitration agreements for the limited number of employees who have this requirement.”
What do you think of the proposed bill? We would love to hear your thoughts.
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