Bipartisan Passage of #MeToo Bill Ending Forced Arbitration a Victory for Women Workers
February 11. 2022
For Immediate Release
Feb 11, 2022
Statement from Jessica Ramey Stender, Policy Director at Equal Rights Advocates, which fights for gender justice in workplaces and schools across the country
San Francisco, Feb. 10, 2022 — Congress’ bipartisan passage today of HR 4445, the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, is an incredible victory for workers across the country.
We are thrilled to see that public awareness about the harms of forced arbitration, which takes away an individual’s constitutional right to a jury trial, has led to Congress passing this historic bill. This is a significant victory in our fight for stronger public policies to ensure that workers can come forward to seek justice, and that corporations are held accountable.
Forced arbitration is the most widespread form of invisible injustice in our workplaces right now. It is particularly harmful in the context of sexual harassment because it is conducted behind closed doors, allowing employers and harassers to avoid any accountability or public scrutiny.
This bill prohibits forced arbitration, including class waiver, in sexual assault and sexual harassment cases.
Equal Rights Advocates strongly supported this legislation as a workers’ rights issue and looks forward to President Biden signing this vital bill into law.
When starting a new job, many employees sign arbitration agreements, unknowingly signing away their right to go to court should they experience sexual harassment, discrimination, or other workplace abuses. Employers sneak these mandatory arbitration agreements into new hire paperwork so employees aren’t even aware they are now legally forbidden from ever challenging their employer in court. Instead, workers must bring their claims internally through arbitration: a private, often secret proceeding overseen by a decision-maker who is not a judge, and who is often selected – and paid for – by the employer who is being accused of violating the employee’s rights.
More than 60 million Americans are now bound by arbitration agreements, which they were required to sign in order to get a job. This number has skyrocketed in the last decade as employers have realized the benefits of the process on their end.