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H.R.4445 - Senate Is Ending Mandatory Arbitration Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Claims

On February 7, 2022, the Senate passed a bill that has a significant positive impact on employees’ rights. This Bill will prevent employers from forcing employees to arbitrate their sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. House of Representatives approved this Bill with a bi-partisan 335–97 vote. The Senate quickly approved it with a unanimous vote and now the Bill is heading to the President for his signature. Everybody expects the President to sign this Bill without obstacle as President Joe Biden seems committed to preventing sexual harassment and assault in the workplace and ensuring employees have access to justice.

Congress unequivocally clarified that forced arbitration is against public policy in sexual harassment and assault cases. This Bill will mark a victory followed by a series of previous multiple attempts by groups committed to obtaining justice on behalf of employees. Now, employees who have experienced workplace sexual assault and sexual harassment can bring their claims to court.

Employers cannot use arbitration as a weapon and leverage in employment law disputes. For a long time, employers have been using forced arbitration to keep cases outside of court and silence victims of sexual assaults and harassment. The legal community committed to fighting for the employees’ rights in the workplace has rejoiced with this Bill. It opens access to justice for the victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment who really need it.

This Bill allows employees to arbitrate their claims if they choose so voluntarily. The Bill is not retroactive to the claims that had accrued prior to the statute going into effect. The Act applicability focuses on the date when a dispute or claim arises. Also, the good news is that it will be the court, not the arbitrator, who will decide the applicability of the Act to the disputes.

H.R.445 will void the mandatory arbitration clause in any contract where a sexual harassment and sexual assault claim is at issue. More than 50 million of American employees will be impacted. Employers will be changing their arbitration agreements soon. However, keep in mind that employers cannot condition employment on employees’ signing the arbitration agreement. Employers are also not allowed to retaliate if an employee refuses to sign the arbitration clause contract. 

While this Bill is a definitive victory, we think it will bring much new litigation to clarify some points of the Bill. Namely, can the clams of employees who allege other claims along with sexual harassment and sexual assault such as discrimination and wage and hour violations be also subject to being exempt from the mandatory arbitration, or must the case be separated? In addition, will the retaliation claims that often go hand-in-hand with the sexual harassment and sexual assault and dissemination claims also be exempt? 

Consult Knowledgeable Employment Law Attorneys in Orange County

If you believe that you may have signed an arbitration agreement containing an illegal term or your employer forces one on you as a condition of employment and you need assistance in reviewing it, you should consult the employment attorneys at the Serendib Law Firm. We represent people in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties. Call us at 1-800-LAW-8825 (800-529-8825) or complete our online form.

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