Wednesday, November 24, 2021
Congress Proposes Giving Plaintiffs the Option to Reject Mandatory Arbitration for Sexual Harassment and Assault Cases
Lily, Wash Post, Forced Arbitration Can Shield Workplace Harassers, Legal Experts Say
On Tuesday, they testified before the House Judiciary Committee. All four women said they reported the behavior to someone at their company. All four women said they were retaliated against for speaking up. And all four women went through mandatory arbitration — an often confidential process that has, for many companies, become the primary way of handling employee disputes.***
Mandatory arbitration, a process that requires employees and consumers to mediate their grievances with the company in a closed-door forum rather than go to court, is now the norm for many businesses, especially nonunion workplaces.
But more than four years after the #MeToo movement propelled a nationwide reckoning of sexual abuse in the workplace, critics of mandatory arbitration say it has protected toxic, abusive workplaces and the people who run them. Changing this particular process is crucial to making substantive strides on workplace harassment, they say.
Supporters of arbitration, meanwhile, claim that the process is a faster, less expensive alternative for workers than filing a lawsuit in court, and could be less intimidating. But workers rights groups and trial lawyers have long argued that the process isolates workers and leaves them at a major disadvantage in winning remedy or compensation from their employers.
In Congress, there is a bipartisan push to amend arbitration rules. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act, which would offer workers the option to resolve their complaints through arbitration or the courts. The Senate Judiciary Committee recently passed an identical version of the bill.
The bill would give workers with sexual abuse claims against their employers the choice to either go through arbitration or pursue their claims in court.