By Andres Del Aguila
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan coalition in Congress seeks to end sexual harassment in the workplace by eliminating forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts.
“If Congress does its job and passes our bill, it would mean that when a workplace has a toxic sexual harassment … environment for employees, those companies won’t be able to hide it anymore,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said during a Wednesday news conference to announce the legislation. “Serial predators will be less likely to be able to continue to climb the corporate ladder.”
When an employee is a victim of sexual harassment, forced arbitration clauses prohibit that worker from taking the alleged perpetrator to court. Instead, the alleged victim is required to settle the dispute with the alleged perpetrator in mediation.
Gillibrand said the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act will prevent companies from silencing victims.
Her statement came moments after she called on Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to resign amid new allegations that he tried to forcibly kiss a former Democratic congressional aide three years before he became a senator.
“The allegations against Sen. Franken describe behavior that cannot be tolerated,” Gillibrand tweeted Wednesday. “While he’s entitled to an Ethics Committee hearing, I believe he should step aside to let someone else serve.”
Gillibrand opened the floodgates with her statement, leading more than a dozen Democratic senators to also call on him to resign.
Franken said he will make a statement on Thursday.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) joined the bipartisan coalition to end sexual harassment in the workplace. During the news conference, he called on business leaders to jump on board.
“I think it’d be good for American business if the business community realized that pre-arbitration – mandatory arbitration before the claim is filed – is not really smart,” he said. “It may be good business but we are going to make it bad business.”