🧑⚖️ Can "Me Too" End Forced Arbitration For Victims?
It's been nearly five years since the #MeToo movement gained national prominence, and now a bill in Congress solidifying workplace protections against sexual harassment is nearing the finish line. The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 has bipartisan support in both chambers and is awaiting a final vote in the House before heading to the Senate where it's expected to pass with at least 60 votes.
The law protects workers from forced arbitration clauses when suing employers over matters of sexual assault/harassment.
Forced arbitration typically favors employers over employees and keeps such cases out of public scrutiny, an issue that is especially troubling when a workplace has a serial violator. “The idea that they can get completely swept under the rug," is hugely problematic, "and even Republicans or pro-employer folks see this as a problem,” says Jeffrey Hirsch, an employment law professor at the University of North Carolina, according to Bloomberg Law.
Silencing Through Forced Arbitration
According to a study by NYU law professor Cynthia Estlund, far fewer cases are brought against employers when under forced arbitration, and joint or class-action cases are blocked. Both situations amount to a silencing of employees through forced arbitration, writes Forbes. San Francisco employment attorney Cliff Palefsky further adds that arbitrators are not required to follow certain rules used in court to protect sexual assault victims, nor is there an appeals process should an arbitrator fail to properly award a plaintiff or follow any rules.
If forced arbitration silences victims and protects serial abusers/harassers, then it's high time to end the legal alternative. That it's taken some five years to do so is worrisome, but tempered somewhat by the fact that it has bipartisan support.