Congress has successfully passed a law that would make it illegal to enforce mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts for sexual harassment and sexual assault cases. This measure, which is expected to be signed into law, is intended to protect employees from being trapped in private arbitration. This, in turn, could help victims of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace to get the justice they deserve.
What is Arbitration?
“Arbitration” refers broadly to a type of private dispute resolution service that is seen as an alternative to resolving legal disputes in courts. While arbitration is meant to follow the applicable law, these arbitrations are carried out in private, and do not create legal precedence. This makes them often seen as a preferable alternative to litigating in the court, which can be costly and time-consuming.
What is a Mandatory Arbitration Clause?
A mandatory arbitration clause is a clause in a contract that requires any disputes related to the contract to be settled in private arbitration. In an employment context, this means that anyone who sued their employer while under a mandatory arbitration clause cannot normally go to court. Instead, they must go through arbitration, which often favors employers and is very difficult to appeal once it has been decided. Moreover, once an arbitrator has made a decision in the case, it is deemed legally binding, and becomes nearly impossible to appeal except in the most egregious cases.
Why is Congress Restricting the Use of Mandatory Arbitration Clauses?
A common complaint about mandatory arbitration clauses is that they are used as a way of restricting employees’ legal rights and keeping their complaints private. This makes it easier for employers to protect their reputations and limit the costs they suffer from employment law violations, including sexual harassment and assault cases. It also makes it much harder for victims of workplace sexual harassment and assault to seek justice in the courts, especially in cases involving multiple victims or complex discrimination cases.
How Could This Affect Regular Employees?
This new law will allow employees suing their employer over alleged sexual harassment or assault to more easily pursue claims in court. While arbitration will still be a potential method of dispute resolution, it will merely be an available alternative, rather than mandatory. This can make it much easier for victims to obtain justice, and get the compensation they deserve for the harm they have suffered.
If you have gotten into a legal dispute with your employer, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 40 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steven Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000 or visit his contact page.