A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill that would void forced arbitration agreements, which some say deter victims from coming forward in cases of sexual harassment or gender discrimination.
Former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson joined members of Congress on Wednesday to announce the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act.
Arbitration policies can prevent a victim of sexual harassment or assault from filing a lawsuit against the perpetrator.
Landmark day on the Hill - introducing bipartisan bill to get rid of arbitration in employment contracts for sexual harassment. Thx @SenGillibrand @sengraham2016 @RepCheri @EliseStefanik @WalterJones2016 pic.twitter.com/O8ZU6iezh0
— Gretchen Carlson (@GretchenCarlson) December 6, 2017
Carlson said the bill would help victims receive the justice they deserve. Carlson left Fox News because she says she endured years of sexual harassment by powerful men at the network who used forced arbitration to prevent victims from talking about their cases.
“Sexual harassment is not partisan because women from all walks of life and politics are targeted,” Carlson said.
Rep. Cheri Bustos and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris are sponsoring the legislation.
“I think when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping you are having the wrong conversation you need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK,” Gillibrand said.
Graydon Law Attorney Kent Wellington has been practicing employment and arbitration law for over 25 years. Wellington said arbitration provisions are sometimes in place to protect employees’ privacy. He also said an employer has a duty to investigate allegations.
“Most of our clients are really just concerned about making sure that these complaints are investigated promptly and thoroughly and that there's no retaliation that follows,” Wellington said.
Some Cincinnati-based companies have types of arbitration policies. Fifth Third Bank told WCPO they have arbitration provisions, but they apply to very few employees. Macy’s said harassment in any form is contradictory to their values.
P&G and Kroger declined to comment.