Congresswoman Bustos statement on tech giants exempting survivors of sexual harassment from forced arbitration

Facebook, Google, eBay and Airbnb adopt Bustos’ bipartisan proposal to end forced arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination

Washington – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, the sponsor of the bipartisan Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Act, responded to Facebook, Google, Airbnb and Ebay’s  decisions to end forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment .

“From the ballot box to the boardroom, women are making their voices heard,” said Bustos. “I am glad that Facebook, Google, eBay and Airbnb have joined us on the right side of history by taking steps to weed out sexual harassment in the workplace. Although we still have a long way to go, this shows that our efforts are already making a tremendous difference in the lives of working women across the country.”

Background:

In December, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and a bipartisan coalition of leaders from the House and Senate introduced the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017 which would allow survivors of sexual harassment or discrimination, who are subject to forced arbitration clauses in their contracts, to opt out and instead take their cases to court. Shortly after introduction, Microsoft, Uber and Lyft moved to end forced arbitration of sexual harassment.

Congresswoman Bustos first started working on this legislation in February, 2017, after reading an article in the Washington Post alleging that Sterling Jewelers, the parent company of Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, Kay Jewelers and Zales Jewelers, was able to sweep hundreds of sexual harassment complaints under the rug through forced arbitration clauses in contracts. As has been detailed in many recent sexual harassment scandals, by avoiding a public airing of grievances, survivors have been silenced, predators have continued climbing the corporate ladder and new employees have entered workplaces that they never could have known were rife with abuse.

In February, a letter that was signed by all 56 Attorneys General from all 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia, called for the passage of legislation “to protect the victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.” The letter specifically requested Congress “ensure these victims’ access to the courts, so that they may pursue justice and obtain appropriate relief free from the impediment of arbitration requirements.”

Right now, an estimated 60 million Americans are subject to forced arbitration clauses. According to the letter from the Attorneys General, “these [mandatory arbitration] clauses typically are presented in boilerplate “take-it-or-leave-it” fashion by the employers. As a consequence, many employees will not even recognize that they are bound by arbitration clauses until they have been sexually harassed and attempt to bring suit.”

Later in February, Bustos published an op-ed in the Hill where she called on Speaker Ryan to allow a vote on her bipartisan bill. And in the year of the women, Bustos plans to continue fighting to ensure the voices of working women across our country are heard.