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Congress approves bill to end forced arbitration in sexual misconduct cases

Congress Sexual Harassment
Posted at 5:23 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 17:23:56-05

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Should victims of sexual harassment in the workplace be able to sue their employers in a public court?

For years, a concept, known as forced arbitration, has prevented that in many cases.

It often requires allegations of harassment to be judged by an arbitrator, outside of a public courtroom.

Congress, however, has voted to change that this week.

#METOO VICTORY

The #MeToo movement has fundamentally transformed the workplace in recent years.

It has led to the arrest of powerful media figures like producer Harvey Weinstein and it's made companies of all sizes rethink how they handle accusations.

One area many companies aren't willingly changing though is the concept of forced arbitration.

It may sound like a complicated legal term but, in short, it bans many sexual harassment victims from having accusations heard in public courtrooms.

Sometimes victims want the public to hear what allegedly happened.

Forced arbitration requires many issues like sexual harassment claims to be handled through private proceedings.

BIPARTISAN SUPPORT

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the measure after Republicans and Democrats came together to pass the bill.

Victims of forced arbitration have been convincing members of Congress for months that they needed to take action.

Tatiana Spottiswoode testified in November in front of the House Judiciary Committee that her former boss sexually harassed her and forced arbitration prevented her from holding him accountable in court, which is more independent than company-appointed arbitrators.

"The person who changed my life forever continues to abuse me because forced arbitration gives him the power to do it in secret,” Spottiswoode said.

It's estimated 60 million Americans are currently impacted by forced arbitration in their employment agreements.

The proposed law would still keep it as an option in case someone would like a more private way to address issues.

The law only applies to sexual misconduct cases.

Advocates have called the bill “the most significant labor legislation of this century."