Sexual harassers in the past managed to slither undetected from workplace to workplace, thanks to the anonymity offered by forced arbitration.
But times are changing.
President Joe Biden this week signed into law the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, landmark legislation that prevents employers from requiring workers to sign arbitration agreements that preclude them from filing in a lawsuit in court involving sexual assault or sexual harassment.
Biden called it a “momentous day for justice and fairness in the workplace.”
His assessment was affirmed by a rare lack of partisanship in Congress. The U.S. Senate approved the measure on a voice vote, which meant there was no opposition. There was a split roll call vote in the House of Representatives but it was approved by 222 Democrats and 113 Republicans. Yet, 97 House Republicans opposed the bill, including a number of women.
Why would a female legislator oppose something that protects women from violence in the workplace? The bill merely brings sexual harassment into the light of day by giving victims the right to go to court. Workers can still voluntarily opt to proceed with arbitration if they choose.
Here are the women in the House of Representatives who sided with the likes of Harvey Weinstein:
- Lauren Boebert, R-CO
- Michelle Fishback, R-MN
- Virginia Foxx, R-NC
- Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA
- Diana Harshbarger, R-TN
- Yvette Herrell, R-NM
- Lisa C. McClain, R-MI
- Mary E. Miller, R-IL; and,
- Carol D. Miller, R-WV
Hopefully voters in their districts will take note.
The bill is a major victory for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who first introduced the bill with Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) in 2017.
She told the Washington Post: “This bill represents one of the most significant workplace reforms in American history. It will help us fix a broken system that protects perpetrators and corporations and end the days of silencing survivors… The arbitration process not only allows the corporations to hide sexual harassment and assault cases in this secretive and often biased process, but it shields those who committed serious misconduct from the public eye.”
The bill, which amends the Federal Arbitration Act, takes effect immediately and applies to all existing arbitration agreements, even those signed prior to the bill’s enactment.