ERA Applauds Biden Signing #MeToo Bill Ending Forced Arbitration Related to Sexual Harassment & Assault
March 3. 2022
For Immediate Release
Mar 3, 2022
Statement from Jessica Ramey Stender, Deputy Legal Director & Policy Director at Equal Rights Advocates.
President Biden’s signing today of HR 4445, the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, is an incredible victory for women workers nationwide, and goes a long way in holding corporations accountable and strengthening policies ensuring workers can come forward to seek justice after sexual harassment and other misconduct.
Forced arbitration takes away an individual’s constitutional right to a jury trial and is one of the most widespread forms 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, often allowing employers and harassers to avoid any accountability or public scrutiny.
This act—the first major piece of federal legislation stemming from the #MeToo movement to be signed into law—prohibits forced arbitration, including class waiver, in sexual assault and sexual harassment cases, thereby ensuring that survivors are able to have their day in court and employers are no longer able to sweep sexual harassment under the rug.
We applaud President Biden for signing this vital bill into law and standing up for workers’ rights.
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.
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