Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson testified about arbitration agreements before a House Judiciary subcommittee on Thursday, urging lawmakers to pass a law to end the agreements for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Carlson touched on her own experience suing the late Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, for alleged sexual harassment, and her efforts advocating to pass laws to help individuals in similar situations.
In arbitration agreements, employees agree to work out claims against their employers in secret proceedings.
“I could have never known or could have never imagined I would become one of the prominent faces fighting against forced arbitration, or that in the 2 1/2 years since my case, a tidal wave of women would have joined me in courageously speaking out against workplace harassment,” she said.
Carlson, whose allegations against Ailes helped lead to his ouster from Fox News, described the hypothetical scenario that women who have signed arbitration agreements can be subject to after they pursue sexual harassment claims.
“In the process she’ll probably be black-listed, demoted and fired from her job. She may get a paltry settlement, but our woman will probably work again.” Carlson said. “No one else at her place of employment will know what happened to her and, worst of all, the perpetrator gets to stay on the job because nobody knows about it, the whole process is secret. And that person is free to harass again and again.”
“And I ask you today, what is fair about that?” she added.
Carlson urged lawmakers to take up a bipartisan bill to end arbitration for sexual harassment cases that was introduced in the last Congress. It has since been reintroduced in the House.
“It turns out, it’s not just courage that’s contagious,” Carlson said. “So is action.”
Some of the witnesses and Democrats at Thursday’s hearing claimed that the agreements only benefit businesses, and harm workers.
Others argued that the agreements are the best way for workers to bring claims against employers, as other legal action can be too costly.
And some Republicans on the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, including ranking member Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.) claimed that getting rid of arbitration will lead to higher costs for businesses, which would lead to higher prices for consumers.