President Joe Biden Thursday signed an amendment to the Federal Arbitration Act on Thursday restricting employers from forcing sexual harassment and sexual assault claims into arbitration. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo
March 3 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden signed an amendment to the Federal Arbitration Act on Thursday that will restrict employers from forcing sexual harassment and sexual assault claims into arbitration.
House Resolution 4445, called the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021, invalidates existing forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts that prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors from seeking justice and public accountability under the laws meant to protect them.
"When it comes to sexual harassment and assault, forced arbitration shielded perpetrators, silenced survivors, enabled employers to sweep episodes of sexual assault harassment under the rug and it kept survivors from knowing if others have experienced the same thing in the same workplace, at the hands of the same person," Biden said as he prepared to sign the bill.
Vice President Kamala Harris said the law would make America's businesses more just.
"Forced arbitration silences survivors of sexual assault and harassment," Harris said. "It shields predators instead of holding them accountable and gives corporations a powerful tool to hide abuse and misconduct."
Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who has advocated for banning forced arbitration since she sued the network's then-CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, attended the signing which she said was a culmination of a five-year journey that she "could have never imagined" after filing the lawsuit.
"Today, I'm here on behalf of the millions of American workers who up until today have been voiceless, silenced for simply having the courage to come forward, to say something bad happened at work. And in return, they got shunted into the secret chamber of arbitration," she said.
The legislation was passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate. The Senate passed the amendment on Feb. 10.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sponsored the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act in the Senate.
"I am thrilled to announce that the historic Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act has passed the Senate and is now headed to President Biden's desk," Gillibrand said in a statement last month.
"This bill is one of the most significant workplace reforms in the last 50 years and is a major step forward toward changing a system that uses secrecy to protect perpetrators and silence survivors."
Graham said in the statement that current arbitration clauses had a "chilling effect" against victims along with "shielding misconduct from public scrutiny."
He has also fought back against opposition claiming that the law would harm businesses.
"It does not hurt business to make sure that people who are harassed in the workplace get treated fairly," he said, during discussions in Congress.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Made in America commitments in the South Court Auditorium at the White House on Friday. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo