Bustos’ Bill to End Forced Arbitration for Sexual Assault and Harassment Passes House Judiciary Committee

Today’s passage marks a major step forward in passing the bill out of Congress

Bipartisan bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month

WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos’ (IL-17) bipartisan, bicameral legislation to end forced arbitration for sexual harassment and assault survivors took a critical step forward when it was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault & Sexual Harassment Act passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month.

“The #MeToo movement has chipped away at the culture of secrecy that protects predators and silences survivors — but ending mandatory arbitration has the power to bring it all crashing down,” said Congresswoman Bustos. “Whether on a factory floor, in a shop on Main Street or in a corporate office, 60 million Americans have signed away their right to seek real justice and most don’t realize it until they try to get help. But survivors of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace deserve to have their voices heard.” 

“If we want to end sexual harassment in the workplace, we need to take bold and meaningful action now. That’s why today, I’m proud my legislation with Representatives Griffith, Jayapal and Cicilline passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and is on track to end forced arbitration for sexual harassment and assault survivors nationwide. I’m also grateful to Senators Gillibrand, Graham and Durbin who shepherded this bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month,” continued Congresswoman Bustos.

“Yesterday, four survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault shared their stories with the Committee about their devastating experiences and the subsequent arbitration process they were forced to endure as a condition of their employment. Today, the Committee acted on those brave women’s stories and passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021, which ends the unjust — and frankly repulsive — system of forced arbitration for survivors of sexual assault or sexual harassment. This is an important step forward for survivors and for millions of more Americans who have been denied their day in court because of forced arbitration clauses. I am particularly proud that this legislation was passed with bipartisan support, sending a clear message to perpetrators that they will be held accountable. I thank Congresswoman Bustos for her leadership on this bill and her work in getting this vital legislation one step closer to becoming law,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 

“Forced arbitration is a rigged system. Our bipartisan, bicameral Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Harassment Act will eliminate this cruel system while preserving the right of sexual assault and harassment survivors to use their voices and speak out against abuse while choosing how they seek justice for the wrongful treatment they endured,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. “By invalidating forced arbitration clauses for sexual assault and sexual harassment claims, our legislation preserves the right of survivors to hold companies publicly accountable in court and finally pushes the needle forward on eliminating forced arbitration once and for all so that workers, consumers, and small businesses have a fighting chance.”

“Predators rely on silence because as long as their actions are hidden, they are free to sexually assault and harass without consequences. Forced arbitration, when weaponized by sexual predators in the workplace, creates a culture of silence that must be ended,” said Congressman David Cicilline, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law. “H.R. 4445, the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, will finally stop this heinous practice once and for all and hold wrongdoers accountable.”

“Today’s markup was an important milestone toward increased accountability in our justice system. By advancing our bipartisan, bicameral bill, the House Judiciary Committee affirmed that those who experience sexual assault and harassment deserve a day in court. I will continue to advocate for this reform to become law,” said Congressman Morgan Griffith. 

“This legislation not only gives victims the freedom to choose the best legal path to vindicate their rights, it also puts employers on notice that these crimes may no longer be ignored,” said Congressman Ken Buck, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law. 

“Today’s news means both houses of Congress will soon vote on banning forced arbitration clauses when it comes to sexual harassment and assault. By eliminating this silencing mechanism, harassment and assault survivors can speak openly about their experiences and are able to own their own stories. I want to thank the members of the House Judiciary Committee for advancing this critical legislation and for taking this crucial step towards making the American workplace safer for all workers,” said Gretchen Carlson, American broadcaster, former Fox News host and Co-Founder of Lift Our Voices. 

The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault & Sexual Harassment Act would stop perpetrators from being able to push survivors of sexual harassment and assault into the secretive, biased process of forced arbitration. This important legislation would invalidate forced arbitration clauses that prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors from seeking justice and public accountability under the laws meant to protect them.

Forced arbitration clauses are buried in the fine print of everything from employment agreements and ubiquitous terms and conditions to everyday digital click-through “agreements.” Patients who were sexually assaulted in a nursing home or women pervasively harassed at work are currently unable to speak publicly or sue in a court of law because of forced arbitration clauses secreted away in enrollment paperwork.

The bipartisan, bicameral Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault & Sexual Harassment Act would simply void forced arbitration provisions as they apply to sexual assault and harassment claims, allowing survivors to seek justice, discuss their cases publicly and eliminate institutional protection for harassers and abusers. 

The bill was introduced earlier this year by U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), along with U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Bustos originally authored the legislation in the 115th Congress. It has been endorsed by the American Association for Justice (AAJ), Public Citizen, the National Women’s Law Center, and the National Partnership for Women and Families.

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