U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) announced bipartisan and bicameral legislation to empower sexual assault and harassment survivors. Several of the lawmakers announced the introduction of the bill at a press conference today with former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson.
The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault & Sexual Harassment Act would stop perpetrators from being able to push survivors of sexual harassment and assault into the secretive, biased process of forced arbitration. This important legislation would invalidate forced arbitration clauses that prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors from seeking justice and public accountability under the laws meant to protect them. Carlson led a seismic shift in society’s understanding of the impact of forced arbitration and institutional protections for sexual harassers when she left Fox News after years of enduring sexual harassment.
“Forced arbitration is a stain on our society. Not only does forced arbitration allow corporations to hide sexual harassment and assault cases in a secretive and often biased process, but it shields those who have committed serious misconduct from the public eye, allowing repeat offenders to evade accountability,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault & Sexual Harassment Act would void forced arbitration provisions for sexual assault and harassment, give survivors their day in court and end institutional protections for harassers. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan and bicameral bill with my colleagues and I commit to passing this critical reform.”
“I very much appreciate the bipartisan effort to make sure that arbitration is not abused when it comes to victims of sexual assault and harassment,” said Senator Graham. “Under current law, many employment contracts require binding arbitration no matter the nature of the grievance. When it comes to sexual assault and harassment, I believe these types of agreements have a chilling effect and should be banned.”
“It is time to end this practice that prevents survivors of sexual assault and harassment from seeking justice. I’m proud to join these bipartisan lawmakers to introduce this important legislation that will empower survivors and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions,” said Senator Durbin.
“Predators rely on the shadows to hide and protect them and it’s past time we shine a light on the abuse and harassment,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “Whether on a factory floor, in a shop on any Main Street or in a corporate office, 60 million Americans have signed away their right to seek real justice and most don’t realize it until they try to get help. But survivors of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace deserve to have their voices heard. If we want to end sexual harassment in the workplace, we need to take bold and meaningful action now. That’s why today, I’m proud to join Senators Gillibrand and Graham, and Reps. Griffith and Jayapal to work to end forced arbitration for sexual harassment and assault survivors.”
“Those who experience sexual assault and harassment should have the option to come forward with their claims. I am proud to join this bipartisan, bicameral group of colleagues in pursuit of that goal. Our legislation would provide a day in court to victims who seek it by prohibiting enforcement of forced arbitration clauses in cases of alleged sexual assault and harassment. It is an important measure that would increase accountability in our justice system,” said Congressman H. Morgan Griffith.
“Instead of protecting the powerful and their profits, we need to protect workers and their wellbeing. It is long overdue that we put an end to the cruel mandatory arbitration process that silences survivors and their voices,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation voids forced arbitration agreements so survivors of sexual harassment and discrimination can have their voices heard and receive the justice they deserve. This is an important structural step toward eliminating institutional protection for harassers and finally ending the culture of sexism that continues to happen across America — from corporate boardrooms to the halls of power.”
“Following my harassment case against Roger Ailes at Fox news, I have fought tirelessly for the last five years on behalf of millions of Americans to end forced arbitration in the workplace. Today, I am proud to stand beside members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to stop silencing women and eradicate these restrictive clauses that punish women and men for simply having the courage to come forward,” said Gretchen Carlson.
“Forced arbitration silences survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault while shielding abusers and the institutions that protect them. This bipartisan legislation would allow survivors to seek justice and accountability under the laws that are supposed to protect them, versus being forced into secret arbitrations that prevent the truth from ever coming to light. We thank Senators Lindsey Graham, Kirsten Gillibrand and Dick Durbin and Representatives Morgan Griffith, Cheri Bustos, and Pramila Jayapal for their leadership on this issue, and we urge the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to consider and pass this bill as soon as possible,” said American Association for Justice CEO Linda Lipsen
“It is unconscionable that forced arbitration clauses allow systemic issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault to stay hidden from public view. We thank Sen. Gillibrand and Sen. Graham for introducing legislation that will give survivors access to neutral, fair, and open courts. In addition to urging support of this important legislation, we continue to advocate that Congress prioritize ending harmful forced arbitration of all civil rights, consumer, employment, and antitrust disputes,” said Remington A. Gregg, Counsel for Civil Justice and Consumer Rights, Public Citizen.
“The Ending Forced Arbitration for Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act is an important step toward transparency, accountability, and justice for survivors. We must restore access to the courts and end the forced secrecy that has perpetuated silence and enabled abuse in so many workplaces,” said Emily Martin, Vice President for Education & Workplace Justice, National Women’s Law Center.
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.
The bipartisan, bicameral bill that the lawmakers announced would simply void forced arbitration provisions as they apply to sexual assault and harassment survivors, allowing survivors to seek justice, discuss their cases publicly, and eliminate institutional protection for harassers.
The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault & Sexual Harassment Act is endorsed by the American Association for Justice (AAJ), Public Citizen, the National Women’s Law Center, and the National Partnership for Women and Families.