From the March-April 2022 issue of News & Letters
For many years, people who experienced sexual harassment and assault in the workplace and in places like medical offices found to their shock that they had waived their right to sue the offenders, and had to submit to private arbitration. Buried in many click-to-agree contracts is language that requires people to settle disputes out of court. But a new federal law renders such agreements void in cases of sexual assault and harassment.
Women’s rights activists and national organizations began working five years ago to get the legislation introduced. This year it passed by a wide margin in February, and took effect March 3. The law is also retroactive. It allows old cases to come unblocked.
SIGNING AWAY YOUR RIGHTS
Binding arbitration has become a powerful tool in the arsenal of private capital. Victims often discover they have signed away their civil right to sue. Instead, they have no choice but to bring their grievances before a private court which is set up and paid for by the defendant company. The bias of such courts is obvious. Usually, the records of their cases cannot be made public.
Even though the bill only moved forward after private business had studied it for several years, the fact that Congress passed a law to void part of private arbitration is a good precedent. Under popular pressure, they have the prerogative to void other provisions which perpetuate unfair conditions.