Forced Arbitration Silences Victims of Sexual Harassment
In recent months, the #metoo movement has brought media attention to a staggering amount of sexual harassment and abuse of power across many of America’s largest industries. Politicas, entertainment, technology and many other sectors have been plagued by allegations of inappropriate behavior in the workplace and coercive sexual advances. These media reports have raised a devastating question: how could so much abuse go unreported for so long?
This is, of course, a complicated question with many possible answers. One of the recurring themes of these reports is the agreements which were used to keep women silent about the abuse they had suffered. In some cases, they were as devious as a blatant agreement to keep silent in exchange for “hush money”. In other cases, they were completely enforceable legal contracts which used the legal process to bully victims into silence. This has often been achieved by the use of an arbitration agreement.
What is an Arbitration Agreement?
An arbitration agreement occurs when two parties agree to submit their disputes to arbitration before they file a lawsuit. Many consumers enter such agreements when obtaining a credit card or cell phone service. In the employment context, many employers require their workers to sign such agreements as a condition of employment. Such agreements will generally require the employee to submit any employment-related legal claims (including sexual harassment) to arbitration before a lawsuit can be filed. In many cases, arbitration must remain confidential, and the employee is not permitted to disclose information about the process.
Unfortunately, many employers have been able to use arbitration clauses to prevent employees from revealing abuse to the press, or otherwise making harassment public in an effort to stop it. An arbitration agreement cannot stop a victim from reporting a crime to law enforcement officials. It can, however, prevent exactly the type of media coverage which has made the #metoo movement so effective.
Hope for the Future
Despite the horrific stories being covered in the media, the recent reports of widespread sexual harassment have also brought the promise of change to the American workplace. The New York Times reports that Microsoft has eliminated forced arbitration of its employees’ sexual harassment claims. The technology giant is also supporting proposed federal legislation that would ban such agreements in employment relationships. This legislation is yet another hopeful sign of things to come, as it has bipartisan support in the Senate.
Change will not, of course, come quickly. But by enacting small changes, and holding each employer responsible for inappropriate conduct in the workplace, the American workforce can slowly become a safer place for everyone.
Aggressive Pursuit of Your Sexual Harassment Claim
The Fite Law Group believes in protecting victims of all sorts of personal injuries. Sexual harassment can be among the most demeaning and emotionally damaging type of injury a person can sustain. If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you need an aggressive attorney with the experience to effectively pursue all legal options. Call (602) 368-1869, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, to schedule your free consultation with an experienced attorney.
Looking for more? Consider reading Changes to the Rules of Lawsuits