Senate Outlaws Forced Arbitration Clauses For Sexual Harassment. FINALLY.

Can it be? Is it possible that we are having a news cycle of NiceTimes?

IT CAN! Because the Senate just passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, which will prevent employers from silencing victims by burying their claims in sealed arbitration. After President Joe Biden signs the bill, it will be illegal for companies to force employees to sign away their right to sue for harassment as a condition of employment. And even better, the law is retroactive, meaning that all the mandatory arbitration clauses currently in force will be invalidated, at least as relates to claims of sexual assault and harassment.

So how the hell did this get through an evenly divided congress where Mitch McConnell wields the filibuster to ensure that nothing which might redound to Democrats' political benefit ever happens?

Thank Gretchen Carlson!

The former Fox News reporter, who sued the network after being sexually harassed by its then chairman Roger Ailes, has made it her mission to get rid of the non-disclosure and forced arbitration clauses wielded to silence accusers and keep serial harassers on the job. She wooed Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham, getting him to back the bill sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

"No more arbitration in the basement about misconduct up top," Graham told NPR, although he rushed to assure employers that they'll still be able to hush up stuff like wage theft, race and age discrimination, or unsafe working conditions, saying "we do not intend to take unrelated claims out of the contracts."

Lest anyone think he was going to quit being an anti-labor asshole.

But screw that guy, let's give Carlson the mike.

Harkening back to five years ago when she filed her suit, Carlson recalled that a friend had promised her something good would come out of it. "I didn't really see it that way at the time," she said tearfully, "but it turns out she was right."

"A lot of good will come from this bill, which is change. The bill will allow survivors a choice, which is secret arbitration or the public courts," she said. "And I believe this bill will have a dual effect. It's going to help companies get on the right side of history, that's for sure. But it will also stop the bad behavior, because now the bad actors will know that women's voices will be heard when they speak up about what's really happening at work."

But wait, there's more! Because the Senate Judiciary Committee also recommended advancing the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act to the wider Senate, knocking down some barriers to federal civil recovery in child sex abuse claims.

“Delayed disclosure has historically impacted survivors' path to the justice that they deserve. We can't deter children in any way from speaking out against their abusers," Republican Senator Chuck Grassley told Courthouse News. “We know from the Larry Nasser case, and many other tragic examples that it can take years for survivors to muster up the courage to come forward. This bill sends a clear message to victims of these horrendous crimes that we see, we hear, and we support you.”

And on top of that, it looks like the Senate may have finally reached a deal to bring back the Violence Against Women Act, which was reauthorized three times since its original passage in 1994, but lapsed in 2019 thanks to Mitch McConnell and his evil henchmen. The House has consistently voted in favor of reauthorization, but Senate Republicans blocked the bill over the so- called "boyfriend loophole," which allows abusive partners to keep their guns if they're not married to or cohabiting with their victims. This provision was a sticking point for the NRA, which knows that the Second Amendment means that every man, woman, and child in America is entitle to walk around with a rocket launcher.

It's ridiculous that we had to cave on this to get the bill through, but the Senate is, at bottom, a ridiculous institution, so here we are.

“I wanted to come to a solution that won't just be a political talking point for one side or the other, but a bill that can gain bipartisan support needed to pass the Senate and truly deliver for my fellow survivors of these life-altering abuses,” Senator Joni Ernst said, which is a funny way of saying that her side doesn't give a shit about women's health and safety.

Anyway! We are not getting waylaid today with another rousing chorus of "Republicans are filth." This is a good day for victims of abuse, and if we can get bipartisan support for anything, it's a win.

[NPR / Courthouse News / Roll Call]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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