Legislation signed into law Thursday by President Joe Biden would ban companies from forcing alleged victims of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace to settle their claims behind closed doors.
The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act passed the House in a 395-97 vote last month. It was then approved in the Senate via voice vote.
While the legislation received the most vocal support from Democrats, it was co-sponsored in the Senate by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said the legislation will help employees be treated more fairly.
“This is not bad for business. This is good for America,” Graham said from the Senate floor in support of the legislation, according to The Associated Press.
So what, exactly, does the legislation do? NBC News provided a concise summary:
“The measure prohibits employers from forcing workers to settle sexual misconduct claims in closed-door arbitration venues that often favor alleged perpetrators,” the outlet reported. “Employees instead can sue in court with their own legal representation, but they still have the arbitration option.”
According to Biden, many workers aren’t even aware of forced arbitration clauses in their employment contracts prior to filing complaints, the Washington Examiner reported.
“Forced arbitration isn’t court,” Biden said at a White House event Thursday. “In fact, forced arbitration prevents survivors from going to court. And under forced arbitration, proceedings are conducted in secret, often by arbitrators selected and paid for by the employer.”
“And the outcomes of the arbitration are usually hidden from the public and the employees and coworkers, and they usually can’t even — and they can’t be appealed or can’t be overturned,” he added.
In addition to legislators and members of the Biden administration, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who sued former Fox New CEO Roger Ailes for allegedly harassing her, was also present at the event.
Carlson has said she was initially told by her lawyers that a forced arbitration clause in her contract meant she could not sue Ailes.
“Something great has come from my decision to come forward and stand alongside millions of others to say it’s not OK for companies to hide harassment and assault,” she said. “
[This is] an historic day that proves both parties can come together to get something good done. I can’t think of a better way to kick off Women’s History Month than by signing a bill that will make the workplace safer for millions of women.”