“It will help fix a broken system.”
“You’re going to have a chance to be heard differently.”
The above are statements made by lawmakers-of both parties- when asked to comment on the workplace harassment legislation that passed the Senate on Thursday (February 10th, 2022) after years of deliberations. The next step requires President Joe Biden’s signature, an act that has seen full support from the White House.
But what does the legislation specifically seek to address, and how could it affect your workplace moving forward?
Keep reading to find out what you need to know…
What does the legislation do?
The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act bans forced arbitration in cases involving sexual misconduct and provides victims with the option of addressing the dispute in federal, tribal or state court.
Once signed into law, the legislation will void any forced arbitration clauses in current contracts pertaining to sexual assault or sexual harassment, enabling victims to take their cases to court.
Companies will be prohibited from writing those clauses into contracts in the future.
Any case previously settled through forced arbitration, however, will remain closed.
What is an Arbitration Clause?
Arbitration clauses limit the legal options for employees who are victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault and make it difficult to subject companies and employers for wrongdoing.
Arbitration can be costly; this places an extreme amount of pressure on workers and it does not allow for the option of an appeal.
How Common are These Clauses?
Arbitration clauses have for a long time been standard practice. According to lawmakers, more than 60 million Americans are subjected to these provisions in employment contracts.
Simply put: it impacts a large chunk of the workforce.
First introduced in 2017 amid the rise of the #MeToo movement, this bill highlights these types of legal provisions in employment contracts that prevents victims from being able to sue their perpetrators in court — instead confining them to often-secretive, costly proceedings that many say are biased toward corporations.
Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have worked for more than four years to pass this significant measure. The legislation was introduced by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois; and Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois.
What does this mean for your workplace?
Now more than ever, we are starting to see the layers of power separating employer and employee being torn down.
And with a new generation of workers entering the workforce, we can all expect to see a greater demand for transparency. This legislation seeks to increase the accountability of companies while creating a more level playing field.
Remember, these situations are extremely difficult, and it takes a lot for someone to come forward. And then if you’re also dealing with your credibility being attacked, and not even really having knowledge that there are other witnesses that could back you up — that’s a real problem.
It’s one thing to read a post and think, “Hey, this is good to know.”
It’s another to ensure you and your company are fully prepared. When addressing and handling matters of workplace harassment – or any employee and workplace situation for that matter – it’s imperative that you and your team are fully educated and aware of culture expectations.
It starts with effectively written policies and procedures, continues into workplace training and awareness, and survives with proper compliance. Our team at MCDA CCG helps with it all, and even more. To protect you and your team members while staying up to date on the regularly changing laws and regulations impacting your business, reach out to one of our HR professionals today.
Give us a call, send us an email, or message us on our social media pages (@mcdaccginc) to receive a customized response – as opposed to a generic comment.
The best time to get ahead of workplace harassment is before it happens, reach out today!
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