Labor & Employment

Congress passes bill banning forced arbitration of harassment and sexual assault claims

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A bill that bans forced arbitration of disputes involving sexual assault and harassment is on its way to President Joe Biden after the U.S. Senate approved the measure by voice vote Thursday.

Biden has said he supports the bill, called the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021, report Bloomberg Law, the Washington Post, ABC News, the 19th and the Associated Press.

The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday.

The bill amends the Federal Arbitration Act to make predispute arbitration clauses and waivers unenforceable in cases filed under federal, state or tribal law. Arbitration would be allowed, however, if a complainant chooses that route.

The bill passed with bipartisan support.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat in New York, said on the Senate floor the bill is “one of the most significant changes to employment law in years.”

More than 60 million Americans are subject to mandatory arbitration clauses in the workplace, according to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat in New York. She first introduced the bill in 2017 with Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican in South Carolina.

News coverage focuses on the bill’s impact on workplace claims. But the bill’s reach is more widespread, affecting nursing home contracts, property leases, ride-share apps and agreements for handyman services, said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat in Florida, in a press release.

Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who accused Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, had pushed for passage of the bill. At a news conference, she said bill will “stop the bad behavior because now the bad actors will know that women’s voices will be heard when they speak up about what’s really happening at work.”

Carlson said the bill does not apply to nondisclosure agreements, and she hoped that Congress would also address that issue.

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