Biden signs bill banning forced arbitration in sexual misconduct cases
President Biden on Thursday signed into a law a bill that will end the use of forced arbitration in lawsuits involving claims of sexual assault and harassment, calling it a “momentous day for justice and fairness in the workplace.”
The law ensures accusers can bring cases alleging sexual assault or harassment in court, rather than being forced into arbitration proceedings that are typically conducted behind closed doors. It voids clauses in employment contracts and other agreements requiring such a process.
“Between half and three-quarters of all women report that they have faced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace, and too often they are denied a voice and a fair chance to do anything about it,” Biden said at a signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
“Today, we send a clear and strong message that we stand with you for safety, dignity and for justice,” he said.
Biden was joined at the event by Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News personality who has been a major advocate for doing away with forced arbitration in cases of sexual misconduct. Carlson sued late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, accusing him of sexual harassment, and has testified before Congress about her experience with forced arbitration.
“Today I am here on behalf of the millions of American workers who up until today have been voiceless, silenced for simply having the courage to come forward to say something bad happened at work, and in return they got shunted into the secret chamber of arbitration,” Carlson said.
The new law will stop bad behavior in the workplace, she said, “because now everyone will know that women’s voices can be heard.”
The measure, which was years in the making, passed the House and Senate earlier this year with bipartisan backing.
“As many of you know, it has been a long road to get here today,” Vice President Harris said in her own remarks, noting that she was an original cosponsor of the bill five years ago.
A bipartisan crew joined Biden at the White House for the signing ceremony, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who cosponsored the bill in the Senate, and Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), cosponsors of the House legislation.
Attendees were given black lapel pins that read “End Forced Arbitration.”
Biden touted the measure as a sign of Republicans and Democrats working together. He name-checked several lawmakers in the audience, including Graham.
“By the way, Lindsey used to be a really close friend. I’m gonna work on it again,” Biden quipped.