Gretchen Carlson Re-Introduces Bill To End Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act

Gretchen Carlson

Re-Introduces Bill To End Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act

“I am proud to have worked with Congresswoman Bustos to spearhead the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act.”

These were some of the words renowned author, advocate and television news anchor, Gretchen Carlson shared with SWAAY. Carlson is known not only for her work and accomplishments in the media, but also standing up to her harasser, Chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes, in 2016 during her time at Fox News. Years ago, she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him, and won. It wasn’t, and still isn’t common for a majority of victims who’ve reported cases. Needless to say, Ailes was forced to end his career at Fox.

Gretchen Carlson, photographed at the Fortune Most Powerful Women 2017 Summit. (Photo Courtesy of WikiCommons - Fortune Conferences)

#MeToo movements, marches for justice and equality are transforming societies. Carlson was one of the first to pioneer these movements. This week, she reintroduced her bill in the House that requires companies to remove the forced arbitration clause; so that all voices can be heard. Arbitration is intended to be cost-effective, reduce litigation costs, and provide guidelines for companies to resolve conflict out of the public lens. It then became clear to Carlson that the agreement wasn’t meant to handle factors like sexual harassment. In fact, arbitration agreements make it harder for employees to sue their employer and take their case to court. The harmful clause that has been embedded in corporate and non-corporate structures for years, silences sexual harassment cases. It’s just starting to come to an end. Carlson’s work is an important milestone for many, women especially.

“I believe every woman and man should be entitled to have their claims adjudicated in a courtroom rather than behind closed doors where victims can never discuss what happened,” Carlson says. “I’m thankful for this bipartisan effort to make workplaces safer across our country.”

Last year, it was estimated that more than 60 million Americans signed arbitration clauses, according to Vox. Based on a Supreme Court ruling, it’s legal for companies to require employees to sign these clauses in their employment contracts. In doing so, those who have been harassed cannot create a lawsuit against the employer. “Forced arbitration clauses in employment agreements are not designed to achieve fair, expeditious or cost-effective resolutions for sexual harassment cases,” Carlson expressed. “They are often used by companies to demean and silence women and conceal pervasive sexual harassment while allowing sexual predators to operate with virtual impunity.” In other words, victims are not able to pursue legal action.

Carlson’s Mission and Impact

“I’m trying to get a bipartisan bill passed to at least get the secrecy taken out…because when it’s [a culture of secrecy], women don’t come forward, because they think it’s only happening to them.” Carlson shared in her previous interview with SWAAY.

Carlson is an advocate for many, specifically women. “When I filed my suit, I had no idea how pervasive it was across every socioeconomic line and every profession, from Smalltown, USA, all the way to Washington, DC,” Carlson shared with a Vox reporter. In an additional question pondering the benefits for a victim going to court, Carlson believes it provides an opportunity to give a voice to others. “The arbitration process means that nobody else in the company knows this behavior might be going on,” she responds to Vox. “When things are technically more out in the open, more people don’t feel alone.
“So you find strength in numbers.”

Since the official announcement, public figures have supported Carlson. Actress, Director, Producer and Activist, Sophia Bush took to Instagram to show support on her story.

“Standing with the courageous @GretchenCarlson today! She is re-introducing her bill that will require companies to remove the forced arbitration clause[,] which takes away your right to arbitration if you encounter sexual harassment, gender discrimination. #endforedarbitration”

On Twitter, Margaret Cho, the Grammy and Emmy Award nominated stand-up comedian, actress and singer-songwriter, tweeted about the big news. She highlighted key information about the forced clause. According to Cho, “They take away your rights to fight sexual harassment and gender discrimination.” She then asked her followers if they know about this hidden clause.

Margaret Cho tweeted in support of Gretchen Carlson in February.

Since her bill has been introduced, tech companies like Microsoft and Vox Media have taken forced arbitration clauses out of their contracts. Uber and Lyft removed arbitration clauses for sexual harassment. Now, Google is on the list. The company “…announced an end to the policy for its full-time employees as well as its temporary workers, contractors and vendors – though the company said it would still enter into contracts with companies that have forced arbitration clauses,” The Hill reported. Around 50 percent of their workforce are contracted through third-party companies. They are not able to benefit from this huge change, just yet.

Google employees protesting. Photo credit: Gizmodo

Google is also making class-action lawsuits possible; employees can now come together and sue if needed. Last Thursday, six Google employees joined congressional Democrats to continue to support ending arbitration and protest against disempowerment of employees. They are taking on the same legislative battle as Carlson. The decision for Google to remove its clause didn’t come easily, like most. Also reported by The Hill, Google employees “staged a worldwide walkout by 20,000 employees over the company’s handling of sexual abuse last year.” Similar occurrences have taken place with eBay and Airbnb. A handful of well-known companies like PayPal, HP, IBM and Verizon are on a long list of companies reported, that have yet to take out the clause.

If the bill is won and enforced on companies, employees will be able to hold their employers accountable for misconduct.

As for Carlson’s next step? She is taking this to the Senate.

Chyna Davis

Hi! SWAAY's Editorial Writer, Chyna, is a passionate journalist and sociologist. She has made NYC her home for four years and is passionate about sharing the stories of inspiring, impacting individuals.

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