Congresswoman Bustos statement on Uber exempting survivors of sexual harassment and assault from forced arbitration

Bustos’ bipartisan bill to end forced arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination has earned the support of all 50 states’ Attorneys General, but Speaker Ryan refuses to allow a vote

 Washington – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, the sponsor of the bipartisan Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Act, responded to Uber’s decision to end forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment and assault.

“Uber’s decision to end forced arbitration of sexual harassment and assault is good news and proof that our movement is making a difference. Uber now joins Microsoft by taking concrete action to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, but we still have a long road ahead. I would urge Uber to extend these same reforms to address workplace sexual discrimination which blocks women from advancing in their careers. Washington Republicans have refused to even allow a hearing on our bipartisan bill to protect 60 million hardworking Americans because they are being lobbied aggressively by special interests who are on the wrong side of history. This isn’t going to be easy, but nothing worth fighting for ever is – we will keep demanding that Speaker Ryan allow a vote on our bill.”

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 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.

To date, despite broad bipartisan support, the Speaker has refused to lift his gavel.

###