Everyone comes to work to focus on doing their job, thinking they are in a safe space, but sometimes that isn't the case. More than one in three women claim they have experienced sexual harassment at work. Unfortunately, many victims have been stopped from speaking out about sexual harassment at work by forced arbitration agreements. A new law now prohibits employers from forcing their workers into arbitration in sexual harassment matters, giving employees the power to choose how to pursue their cases.
What is forced arbitration?
Forced arbitration is a type of clause that employers often insert into employment agreements, requiring the parties to the agreement to resolve disputes through a specific arbitration process rather than taking their issues to court. According to the Economic Policy Institute, approximately 60 million American workers are affected by mandatory arbitration clauses. While such agreements are nominally voluntary, in practice, employees' hands are often tied because the arbitration agreement is a condition of employment. In other words, to get the job, you have to sign away your right to have your day in court.
Under forced arbitration, any legal dispute will be settled at the hands of the company and in a setting the company chooses. Your case will never see a public courtroom; unsurprisingly, the arbitration's outcome is usually favorable to the employer.
Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021
The new law was signed by President Biden on March 3, 2022, effective that date. Essentially, it makes forced arbitration clauses unenforceable with respect to sexual assault and harassment claims. As a result, employees who are victims of sexual harassment and assault at work now have the option to bring their claims to court even if they had agreed with their employer not to.
The new law is a triumph for victims of workplace sexual harassment and assault. For far too long, forced arbitration has been abused by employers to stand in the way of justice for victims. Now, the perpetrators can be brought before a judge and jury, and survivors have the right to seek justice in a public forum.
Who does this law affect?
The new law allows workers who have been sexually harassed access to the public courts, but only those that have been sexually harassed or assaulted. Another worker who was a victim of racial discrimination, for instance, doesn't have the same protection and could still be forced into mandatory arbitration. It remains unclear how the new law will affect those who have faced sexual harassment along with other kinds of harassment or discrimination. That's why it is in your best interest to contact an attorney that can assist you if you have a more complicated case.
This new law will significantly impact workers, but as employment lawyers, we know there is still more that can be done. We cannot forget about the victims of other types of harassment. More change needs to happen so that acts of discrimination are not brushed under the rug. As an employee, always make sure to thoroughly read a contract before signing. The more you are aware of your rights, the shorter your path to justice will be.
Contact our workplace harassment lawyers today.
It is not uncommon for employees to experience workplace harassment, but it is against the law. As good as the end to forced arbitration for sexual assault and harassment is, it still leaves a legal grey area for other survivors. That's why the lawyers at Gibson Law, LLC are committed to fighting for the rights of all survivors.
Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation to review your legal options. We can go over your legal rights and answer any questions you may have. We have offices in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio.