Bustos Statement on Senate Passage of HR 4445 to End Forced Arbitration

Bustos first introduced the bill in 2017 after learning about thousands of women who were sexually harassed or assaulted, and then silenced by forced arbitration clauses

WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos’ (IL-17) bipartisan, bicameral legislation to end forced arbitration for sexual harassment and assault survivors passed the U.S. Senate, after passing the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week.

The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act will void forced arbitration agreements in any contract if a sexual assault or harassment claim is brought. For employment contracts, more than 60 million Americans would be impacted. That estimate grows exponentially when considering other contracts and terms and conditions where forced arbitration clauses are typically found, such as in nursing homes, property leases, ride-share apps, movers, handyman services and more.

By voiding forced arbitration clauses in the case of sexual assault and harassment, survivors are provided the freedom to decide what legal path works best for them – that can include bringing a claim in court, discussing their case publicly or seeking another kind of legal remedy. It will eliminate institutional protection for harassers and abusers and give survivors the chance to pursue justice.

“I first began working on this bill in 2017, after the Washington Post published a story detailing the horrors thousands of workers were facing under forced arbitration clauses. Sexual harassment, quid-pro-quo arrangements for sexual favors, abuse and even rape within a company were all being hidden behind closed doors because of a simple legal technicality in the employment paperwork,” said Congresswoman Bustos.

“Since that start, we’ve seen the #MeToo movement expand, and with it, we’ve seen how pervasive and insidious forced arbitration clauses can be. From employment paperwork and lease agreements to the terms and conditions for apps and services, the majority of Americans have unknowingly signed their rights away, and don’t realize it until they’re the one being silenced.

“My bill to void this legal language for sexual assault and harassment claims will let survivors’ voices be heard. After we passed this bill on the House Floor this week, I’m thrilled to see it pass the Senate – and I’m proud to say that it has widespread support among Democrats and Republicans.

“I want to thank the leaders who stood alongside me and helped champion this important legislation: Reps. Morgan Griffith, Pramila Jayapal, Ken Buck, Jerrold Nadler and David Cicilline. And thank you to Senate champions Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Lindsay Graham and Dick Durbin along with advocates like former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson. Next stop: President Biden’s desk!”