In a rare display of bipartisanship, Congress passed a new bill aimed at protecting the victims of workplace sexual misconduct. The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act was easily passed by a voice vote in the Senate after the House of Representatives voted in favor of it, 335 to 97.
The bill, which is one of the largest workplace reforms in decades, puts an end to forced arbitration for employees who report claims of sexual misconduct. The new law will impact an estimated 60 million workers who are bound by employment contracts to settle any disputes at a closed-door arbitration hearing.
“The arbitration system is fairly skewed toward the company, and to take a job, I don’t think you should be required to give up your day in court if you claim something untoward happened to you,” said South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who co-sponsored the bill.
Employees will still have the option of settling their dispute through arbitration. The newly passed law just gives them the option to have their claim heard in federal, state, or tribal courts.
“Today, we can no longer ignore that forced arbitration has proven immensely harmful when it comes to sexual harassment and sexual assault,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a passionate floor speech. “When workers, almost always women, face abuse or harassment at the hands of their employers, forced arbitration immediately limits their options for remedy. The deck is stacked against them from the start, and thus abusers rarely face true accountability.”