May 23, 2022

Senate Democrats forced to unite with Republicans to pass big bipartisan sexual harassment bill

A bill with bipartisan support is something of a unicorn in Washington, D.C. right now. However, there are still a few things Democrats and Republicans can agree on.

A bill that would abolish mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment cases passed in the Senate Thursday, the Washington Examiner reported. Previously, the Federal Arbitration Act allowed those cases to stay out of the courts.

The bill had passed in the House of Representatives in a 335-97 bipartisan vote earlier in the week. The Senate vote was unanimous for this bill even as Democrats were a vote short with New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Lujan recovering from a stroke.

Prior to this amendment, companies were allowed to put clauses into employment contracts that required arbitration rather than settlement in a court of law for sexual misconduct. Lawmakers saw this as a major problem to be remedied and first drafted a bill in 2017.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) gathered information from businesses and victims alike. “We can function up here, we’re listening to the world as it is,” Graham said of being able to garner Democrat support.

“Today’s vote means that this historic bipartisan bill will become law once it is signed by the President — protecting millions of people by making their workplaces safer,” former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson also said. Carlson is a co-founder of Lift Our Voices, a nonprofit that seeks to abolish practices like forced arbitration and nondisclosure agreements.

Carlson was one of several women who filed lawsuits against the late former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. Her accusation prompted other high-profile women at the network like fellow host Megyn Kelly come forward, the Guardian reported.

Companies love arbitration because it keeps them out of costly and public court battles. However, victims deserve justice when a crime is committed, and arbitration literally robs them of their day in court.

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