AGs demand Congress end mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment cases
Every attorney general in the U.S. signed a letter to Congress this week demanding lawmakers end the practice of mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment cases.
Employees are often required to sign contracts stipulating that sexual harassment claims be settled in private courts. However, the attorneys general are asking lawmakers to allow employees to publicly state their claims in court.
The attorneys general of all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories wrote that while arbitration may make sense in some cases, “they do not extend to sexual harassment claims.”
“Victims of such serious misconduct should not be constrained to pursue relief from decision makers who are not trained as judges, are not qualified to act as courts of law, and are not positioned to ensure that such victims are accorded both procedural and substantive due process,” the attorneys general wrote.
The officials also noted that secrecy of the settlements prevents the public from learning about harassment complaints and that ending the practice “would help to put a stop to the culture of silence that protects perpetrators at the cost of their victims.”
“Congress today has both opportunity and cause to champion the rights of victims of sexual harassment in the workplace by enacting legislation to free them from the injustice of forced arbitration and secrecy when it comes to seeking redress for egregious misconduct condemned by all concerned Americans,” the letter reads.
The effort was led by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D), according to a press release from Bondi’s office.
“Decades of private arbitration proceedings regarding sexual harassment have had the unintended consequence of protecting serial violators and it must end,” Bondi said in a statement.
“I am proud to lead this bipartisan coalition of all 56 U.S. attorneys general, along with General Stein, and look forward to the passage of strong federal legislation to help protect employees from workplace sexual harassment,” she continued.
This is the first time in a decade that all 56 attorneys general have signed one letter to Congress, according to the release.
Congress is currently considering a bipartisan bill to end arbitration in sexual harassment cases. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced the legislation in December, arguing that the practice allows perpetrators to escape charges in sexual harassment claims.
The push to end the practice comes as the “Me Too” movement rocks both politics and the entertainment industry, after figures such as Harvey Weinstein were accused of sexual misconduct. Several lawmakers have recently either resigned or announced their retirements after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.