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Congress passes landmark sexual harassment arbitration bill, Biden to sign

Feb 10, 2022


Congress has sent the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act to President Joe Biden’s desk. The video above includes clips from the Senate floor and a news conference after the bill was passed in the Senate. The bill, which President Biden is expected to sign, prevents employers from forcing people who experience sexual harassment at work to settle cases through arbitration rather than in court.

“This bill is one of the most significant workplace reforms in the last 50 years and is a major step forward toward changing a system that uses secrecy to protect perpetrators and silence survivors,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said in a statement regarding the Senate’s passage of the bill Thursday. “It will give survivors their day in court, allow them to discuss their cases publicly and end the days of institutional protection for harassers.”

The passage of the sexual harassment arbitration bill was a rare showing of bipartisanship. Sen. Gillibrand introduced it back in 2017 alongside Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-KY), Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson. The bill passed in the Senate Thursday by unanimous consent, which is almost never used for significant legislation. The House vote was 335-97.

“I’m very pleased the Senate has now joined the House of Representatives in passing this important legislation and sending it to President Biden’s desk to sign into law,” Sen. Graham said. “The days of sexual harassment and sexual assault cases being buried in unfair arbitration clauses are now over.”

In addition to the bipartisan nature of the sexual harassment bill, it is also seen as a major milestone of the #MeToo movement. Five years ago, Carlson accused the now-deceased Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of making unwanted advances and harming her career when she rejected him. At the news conference, Carlson said she could never have imagined she would help pass a law that both Democrats and Republicans would get behind.

“A dear friend of mine said to me back then, ‘You know, Gretchen, something good is going to come out of this,’” Carlson said. “I didn’t really see it that way at the time, but it turns out she was right.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D) New York: “The Ending Forced Arbitration and Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act will void all forced arbitration provisions for sexual assault harassment, allowing them to have their day in court, a basic constitutional right, your day in court to be heard and to aspire to justice. And that will be, going forward, their right. It will also allow them to discuss their cases publicly. To tell your story, to tell your colleagues, to tell your family, to tell the people you know and love what’s happening. And it prevents corporations from protecting their harassers and abusers.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R) South Carolina: “To all the women and men, but mostly women, you’re going to have a right today that you did not have yesterday. You’re going to have a chance to be heard differently and it’s long overdue. So what will happen in the business community? They will up their game.”

Gretchen Carlson, Former Fox News anchor: “I could never have imagined five years ago after filing my harassment lawsuit against Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, that I’d be standing here today with such an amazing bipartisan victory. A dear friend of mine said to me back then, ‘You know, Gretchen, something good is going to come out of this.’ I didn’t really see it that way at the time, but it turns out she was right.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, Majority Leader: “And the good news about this legislation is all the clauses that people already signed in their employment contracts, even when they didn’t know about it, will no longer be valid. So it not only affects the future, but affects those who signed in the past. This legis… if you could ever say that any legislation is long overdue, this is it.”

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