In February 2022, the U.S. Congress approved the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021. The Ending Forced Arbitration Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 3, 2022, and became effective immediately. The Ending Forced Arbitration Act amends federal arbitration law. It allows victims of workplace sexual harassment or assault to pursue their claims in court. Prior to this law, they would be forced into alternative dispute resolution.
If you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment or workplace sexual assault, you may be wondering how this change applies to you. In this article, the Law Office of John W. Dalton will walk you through how this important new law ends forced arbitration for some employment claims. We will help you understand what an arbitration clause is and what to do if you signed one. We will also tell you how sexual harassment claims may now proceed directly to civil court instead of being covered up by confidential arbitration or sneaky settlements that prevent employer misdeeds from ever being exposed to public scrutiny.
What Is an Arbitration Clause?
Generally speaking, an arbitration clause is a contract provision requiring all disputes to be resolved through arbitration. Employers often put arbitration clauses in employment agreements. These clauses require that all claims, including sexual harassment claims, be resolved through this alternative dispute resolution process.
Not all employment arbitration provisions are the same. However, most leave victims of workplace harassment with few affordable options for resolution. Additionally, the entire arbitration process is confidential. Because of the process’s strict confidentiality, there is often little accountability for harassers.
Some employers have, on their own accord, discontinued using forced arbitration clauses for resolving sexual harassment claims. Others have done so under great pressure from industry and victims’ advocates. Additionally, several states began restricting the use of forced arbitration in employment disputes. But by and large, before the passage of the Ending Forced Arbitration Act, many employees were left with only the options of proceeding to possibly unfair arbitration or filing a charge with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
What If I Signed an Arbitration Agreement?
If you signed an arbitration agreement at any time during your employment, don’t despair. The Ending Forced Arbitration Act may apply to your agreement. The law applies retroactively as well as prospectively. This means that with regard to your sexual harassment claims, your arbitration clause may no longer apply.
However, the law does not and was not intended to kick all arbitration agreements to the curb. Arbitration agreements have a rightful place in contracts. Alternative dispute resolution can save people money and time when the power between the parties is balanced. Sexual assault claims, however, represent a grave imbalance of power. In complex situations like these, paid factfinders may not be the best adjudicators of the dispute. Sexual assault and sexual harassment claims deserve to have their day in court—and so do you. If you have been sexually assaulted or harassed, contact an experienced employment lawyer to discuss your concerns.
What Does the Ending Forced Arbitration Act Mean for Me?
For Victims of Sexual Harassment or Assault
For victims of sexual harassment or workplace sexual assault, this new law exposes the seamy underbelly of many workplaces. Now, under the new Ending Forced Arbitration Act, you can file your sexual harassment claims in civil court and subject the process to a measure of transparency and accountability. Documents may now be public, and employers can no longer hide their misogynistic high performers behind decades of secretive arbitration.
As one expert attorney puts it, “From my perspective, this is the greatest change in the law for employees since I have been practicing law. It’s huge. Now employers cannot force victims of sexual harassment into the unfair forum of arbitration to devalue their cases, bury the evidence (arbitrations are confidential), and leave them with no right of appeal. I am aware of some real horror stories related to arbitration. I’m in two as we speak. This changes everything with respect to sexual harassment cases.”
We don’t want you to become one of the horror stories. At the Law Office of John W. Dalton, we have a track record of standing up for victims of sexual harassment. We are eager to use these positive changes in the law to get the best results for our clients.
For Workers with Arbitration Agreements in Place
If you already have an arbitration agreement in place, now is a great time to review the document. You may be subject to a forced arbitration clause and not even know it. Take a careful look at any employment agreements, contracts, and even employee handbooks you may be subject to. Be sure to discuss the matter with a trusted employment lawyer.
If you fear you may become a victim of workplace sexual harassment or assault, disclose this to your lawyer as well. Employers may not even be aware of the Ending Forced Arbitration Act. Thus, they may try to enforce outdated and unlawful agreements. Don’t let that happen to you!
For Everyone Else
If you do not have an arbitration agreement in place and you are not (yet) the victim of workplace harassment, the Ending Forced Arbitration Act still contains important insights for you. You are now armed with the knowledge that you cannot be forced into arbitration to resolve a sexual harassment claim. Making workplaces and legal processes fairer benefits everyone.
How We Can Help
John Dalton has spent over 25 years as a lawyer fighting for the rights of victims of sexual harassment, assault, and workplace discrimination. Based in Solana Beach, California, John has taken on large employers around the world and won compensation for his clients. With an impressive track record at trial, John has won some of the largest sexual harassment case verdicts in California (and national) history. Don’t navigate your sexual harassment claim alone. Contact us today for a case evaluation.