Dec 06 2017

Graham, Gillibrand Announce Bipartisan Legislation To Help Prevent Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) today introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017 would void forced arbitration agreements that prevent sexual harassment survivors from getting the justice they deserve.

Graham and Gillibrand were joined by Gretchen Carlson, who previously worked at Fox News Channel and left the network after enduring years of sexual harassment.  The perpetrators used forced arbitration to institutionalize protections for sexual harassers and prevent survivors from discussing their cases and taking them to trial.

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.”

“When a company has a forced arbitration policy, it means that if a worker is sexually harassed or sexually assaulted in the workplace, they are not allowed to go to court over it; instead, they have to go into a secret meeting with their employer and try to work out some kind of deal that really only protects the predator. They are forbidden from talking about what happened, and then they are expected to keep doing their job as if nothing happened to them. No worker should have to put up with such an unfair system,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation to finally get rid of forced arbitration for sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace, and I urge all of my colleagues to join our effort, take this problem seriously, and support this important bipartisan bill.”

“Forced arbitration is a harasser’s best friend,” said Gretchen Carlson. “It keeps harassment complaints and settlements secret. It allows harassers to stay in their jobs, even as victims are pushed out or fired. It silences other victims who may have stepped forward if they’d known. It’s time we as a nation - together - in bipartisan fashion give a voice back to victims.”

Forced arbitration clauses prevent survivors of sexual harassment from discussing the nature or basis of their complaint. If an employee’s contract or employee handbook includes a forced arbitration clause, the employee is likely to have signed away his or her right to a jury trial whether or not they are aware of the clause. Employees are far more likely to win cases that go to trial than cases that go through the arbitration process.