Bustos Leads the Charge to End Forced Arbitration Agreements that Prevent Sexual Assault Survivors of Receiving Justice

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) reintroduced the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act. Joining Congresswoman Bustos as original cosponsors on this bipartisan legislation are Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Elise Stefanik (NY-21) and Morgan Griffith (VA-9). The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act would void forced arbitration agreements that prevent sexual harassment survivors from getting the justice they deserve. Gretchen Carlson, who joined the press conference and previously hosted “Fox & Friends,” left the network after enduring years of sexual harassment by powerful men who used forced arbitration to institutionalize protections for sexual harassers and prevent survivors from discussing their cases and taking them to trial.

“If we truly value workers and want to end sexual harassment in the workplace, we need to take bold and meaningful action now,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “Whether it’s on a factory floor, at a Main Street shop 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. We need to change this and give workers a voice. Those who have been subjected to sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace deserve an option to have their day in court. While there are plenty of good companies that take sexual harassment seriously and work to prevent it, this legislation will help root out bad actors by prohibiting them from sweeping this problem under the rug.”

“I am proud to have worked with Congresswoman Bustos to spearhead the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act,” said Gretchen Carlson, a renowned author, advocate and television news anchor. “Forced arbitration clauses in employment agreements are not designed to achieve fair, expeditious or cost-effective resolutions for sexual harassment cases. They are often used by companies to demean and silence women and conceal pervasive sexual harassment while allowing sexual predators to operate with virtual impunity. I believe every woman and man should be entitled to have their claims adjudicated in a courtroom rather than behind closed doors where victims can never discuss what happened. I’m thankful for this bipartisan effort to make workplaces safer across our country.”

“Last fall, millions of people broke their silence about sexual misconduct, exposing a systemic problem with workplace harassment in almost every industry in America,” said Ally Coll Steele, President and Co-Founder of the Purple Campaign. “But this movement didn’t just reveal the extent of the problem—it also showed that existing laws have largely failed to address it. Congresswoman Bustos’ legislation is precisely the kind of policy change that is needed to protect workers from sexual harassment on the job. Currently, a majority of non-union employees are subject to boilerplate employment agreements that force them to give up their right to file a civil lawsuit in the event of harassment, making it literally illegal for them to access the legal system at all. By eliminating this practice in workplaces across industries, this bill represents a critical step forward and will go a long way toward creating the lasting change we need.”

“We support this bipartisan effort to remove forced arbitration provisions from worker contracts, which prevents those alleging sex discrimination and sexual harassment from getting the justice they deserve,” said Lisa Gilbert, Vice President for Legislative Affairs at Public Citizen.

BACKGROUND

Today, an estimated 60 million Americans are subject to forced arbitration clauses. The bipartisan bill Congresswoman Bustos reintroduced today would void forced arbitration agreements and allow survivors of sexual harassment or discrimination to seek justice, discuss their cases publicly and eliminate institutional protection for harassers. Forced arbitration clauses prevent survivors of sexual harassment from discussing the nature or basis of their complaint. If an employee’s contract or employee handbook includes a forced arbitration clause, the employee is likely to have signed away his or her right to a jury trial whether or not they are aware of the clause. Employees are far more likely to win cases that go to trial than cases that go through the arbitration process.

In the 115th Congress, Congresswoman Bustos introduced similar bipartisan, bicameral legislation with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Upon the introduction of Congresswoman Bustos’ legislation, Attorneys General from all 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia called for passage of her bill to protect workers and survivors of sexual assault. Other companies have since ended the use of forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment and assault, including Uber, Microsoft and, most recently, Google.

###