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Congress Ends Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment and Assault Claims, Protects the Right to File Class-Action Lawsuits

The legislation not only frees survivors to file a claim in court, but also allows them to share their experiences with co-workers, discuss their cases publicly and warn others about companies that tolerate harassment and abuse of women.

On Feb. 10, 2022, Congress passed legislation to void forced arbitration agreements and collective action waiver clauses for sexual harassment and assault claims in any contract. The law, which is now heading to Biden’s desk for his signature, prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign away their rights to sue for sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. Advocates celebrated the legislation—a long-term priority since Alyssa Milano’s #MeToo tweet went viral in October of 2017. 

“Since that start, we’ve seen the #MeToo movement expand, and with it, we’ve seen how pervasive and insidious forced arbitration clauses can be,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), lead sponsor of the legislation in the House. “Sexual harassment, quid-pro-quo arrangements for sexual favors, abuse and even rape within a company were all being hidden behind closed doors because of a simple legal technicality in the employment paperwork. My bill to void this legal language for sexual assault and harassment claims will let survivors’ voices be heard.”

The #MeToo uprising revealed pervasive sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, in housing and beyond. 

“Studies estimate that almost a quarter to more than eighty percent of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace in their lifetimes,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). “Yet many survivors are forced to enter into a private system of arbitration instead of resolving their claims in a court of law. Forced arbitration is a trap — one that many employees do not even know they have entered until after an incident occurs.”

Surprisingly, at a time when Republicans are opposing every piece of legislation that might expand or protect women’s rights, the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 received bi-partisan support. The legislation passedthe House by a vote of 335-97 and the Senate by a voice vote.

Read full article at Ms. Magazine

 

Congress Ends Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment and Assault Claims, Protects the Right to File Class-Action Lawsuits