The U.S. Senate has passed a bill barring forced arbitration in workplace sexual harassment cases.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sponsored the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act.
“I am thrilled to announce that the historic Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act has passed the Senate and is now headed to President Biden’s desk,” Gillibrand said in a press statement.
She said the bill is “one of the most significant workplace reforms in the last 50 years and is a major step forward toward changing a system that uses secrecy to protect perpetrators and silence survivors.”
The legislation would invalidate existing forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts that prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors from seeking justice and public accountability under the laws meant to protect them.
“I’m very pleased the Senate has now joined the House of Representatives in passing this important legislation and sending it to President Biden’s desk to sign into law,” Graham said in a statement, “The days of sexual harassment and sexual assault cases being buried in unfair arbitration clauses are now over.”
Forced arbitration clauses are buried in the fine print of everything from employment agreements and ubiquitous terms and conditions to everyday digital click-through “agreements.” For example, many patients who were sexually assaulted in a nursing home or women pervasively harassed at work are currently unable to tell their story in a public court of law because of forced arbitration.
“For decades, abusers have used arbitration as a shield for their horrific behavior, but today, bipartisan action has been taken to eliminate for good the awful practice of forcing victims of sexual harassment and assault into silence,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “It is time for victims of sexual harassment and assault to have the freedom to hold abusers accountable and exercise their basic right to pursue justice against harmful employers in court.”