The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act is now law. At its core, this law prevents employers from blocking victims of sexual harassment in the workplace from taking their case (or any related case) to court. No longer will these vulnerable workers be denied their right to a trial by jury. No longer will claims against perpetrators and the companies that cover for them be shunned into a secretive and slanted arbitration process inherently designed to make employment claims more difficult. The Ending Forced Arbitration Act is the biggest and most impactful employment law legislation passed this century. (Best Law Read: Step 2: Senate Passes Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act; Step 1: House Passes Ending Forced Arbitration Of Sexual Assault And Sexual Harassment Act; see also Newsweek: Superstars & Superheroes: Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm).
To say that this week was amazingly awesome would be an understatement. This week, our firm was able to have a finger in pushing history in a positive direction for women who have been sexually assaulted and harassed in the workplace. To be clear, there are a lot of incredible people who get immense credit for doing so much more over the last five years to get The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 signed into law, including Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Rep. Morgan Griffith (R—VA), who sponsored the bill in House; Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who made sure this law passed the Senate in a bipartisan fashion; Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who arranged for one of the most impactful hearings on this bill; President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who both have championed this issue even before being elected to the White House; the American Association of Justice; and especially, the survivors of sexual harassment that testified before the House – Lora Henry (our client), Tatiana Spottiswoode, Eliza Dushku, Andowah Newton, and of course, Gretchen Carlson.
Over the past year, I have had the honor of working with almost all of the people on the list above – as well as their absolutely incredibly talented staff members. These are the people who deserve our immense respect and gratitude.
Yesterday, Ms. Henry and I were invited by President Biden to the White House for the signing of The Ending Forced Arbitration Act. The speeches by Vice President Harris, Mrs. Carlson and President Biden were inspiring, especially in lining up their next set of agenda items to protect workers (more on that from me next week). If you did not see the event, you can watch it here: President Biden Signs into Law H.R. 4445 (skip to 56:20).
After the signing, I had the honor to speak with President Biden about the impact of the law and how many it will affect. We discussed that we have had several 16- and 17-year-old girls who were sexually harassed and assaulted in the workforce but had their right to a jury stolen by arbitration agreements. I could see how deeply that bothered the President, who responded, “I don’t just understand you and overstand how important this is.” He then told me that now that the law is passed, “it will be up to good lawyers like you to continue to fight for these women.” He’s right. The Ending Forced Arbitration Act gives us a huge new advantage to help these victims, but we have to keep the fight going. And we will.
Earlier this week when Ms. Henry was invited to be a guest of Rep. Bustos at the State of the Union, Ms. Henry – along with the other survivors – were given the opportunity to speak to the media. Ms. Henry told them: “Allowing sexual harassers to hide their conduct in closed rooms and away from public scrutiny only allowed them to keep doing it to other women over and over and over again. This law brings the conduct into the light where justice can be done.” During the State of the Union media statements by the survivors, the biggest common theme was that they sought to use their experience to prevent the same thing from happening to others. As of yesterday, mission accomplished.