Under the Federal Arbitration Act, employers may enter into arbitration agreements with employees which would bar such employees from pursing work-related claims outside of the arbitration process. These types of arbitration agreements invariably would encompass claims for sexual harassment. In light of the #MeToo movement, Illinois congresswoman Cherie Bustos introduced a bill in the House of Representatives on December 26, 2017 to amend the arbitration law. The Bill, titled Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017, would allow sexual harassment/discrimination claimants who are subject to forced arbitration clauses to opt out of arbitration clauses, giving them the ability to file their claims in court.
Recently, all 56 Attorneys General of the United States, its territories, and the District of Columbia signed a letter of support for the passage of the legislation. The letter applauded Microsoft Corporation for voluntarily discontinuing its arbitration clauses to ensure that victims of sexual harassment may invoke their rights under the judicial system. The letter passionately states: “Congress today has both opportunity and cause to champion the rights of victims of sexual harassment in the workplace by enacting legislation to free them from injustice of forced arbitration and secrecy when it comes to seeking redress for egregious misconduct condemned by all concerned Americans.”