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The End of Forced Arbitration in Sexual Harassment Claims Draws Near

justiceRecent media coverage related to sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in the workplace has lawmakers paying attention. Now, there are efforts underway to put an end to employers forcing employees to arbitrate matters related to sexual harassment out of court.

For years, employers have built clauses into employment contracts requiring arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution tools be used to resolve workplace disputes. While there are a number of reasons why this could be beneficial to all parties involved, the primary reasons employers do it is to save themselves money and to keep any matters that arise out of the public eye. Not to mention, these clauses can intimidate employees into not pursuing legal action when they are treated poorly.

Changing How Sexual Harassment is Handled in the Workplace

Two recent bills introduced in Congress could change how employers deal with sexual harassment claims. Both of the bills have bipartisan support and in their current forms, would dramatically alter employment litigation in the country.

Essentially, either of the bills could eliminate pre-dispute arbitration clauses, but the House version (the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act) targets only sexual harassment claims, while the Senate bill is broader and would amend the Federal Arbitration Act. Any employer who uses arbitration agreements would be affected by the changes, even if the agreements are optional.

Additionally, employers who use class action waivers to prevent class action would also be affected. These waivers are used to save employers money, but still allow individuals to seek damages through arbitration. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments near the end of 2017 concerning class action waivers in three separate cases as they pertain to employment and a decision in those cases is expected by June of this year.

Those in support of the House bill and the sexual harassment aspect of the Senate believe that it needs to be the goal of all employers to end sexual harassment in the workplace. However, those who support the Senate bill want to take things a step further and end all workplace arbitration agreements – something that is not supported by as many people. They argue there is a time and place for arbitration agreements, it just shouldn’t be an option when an employer or co-worker is accused of sexual harassment.

Dealing with Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can be one of the most difficult issues faced in the workplace. Victims of sexual harassment feel intimidated and frightened, and their concerns often go beyond the workplace. All issues of harassment in the workplace are bad, but sexual harassment tends to feel more personal and can be more threatening than other types of harassment. Not only are you concerned about your job, but you must also consider personal safety.

If you believe you are a victim of sexual harassment or you’ve reported an incident and you don’t feel as if your employer did enough to put an end to the situation, we can help. Contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. for more information.

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