TRENTON – New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has joined a multi-state effort to protect the rights of workplace sexual harassment victims by asking Congress to pass a ban on the mandatory arbitration of on-the-job sexual harassment claims.
A multi-state letter signed by Grewal this week urges leaders of both the House and Senate to ensure that employees alleging workplace sexual harassment receive equal justice by enacting a prohibition on the employment practice of requiring confidential arbitration of their harassment claims. Congress is presently considering legislation to address the issue.
“Access to our judicial system is a fundamental right, and the victims of sexual harassment should not be denied that access simply because they were victimized on the job,” said the Attorney General. “As we all recognize, there’s no place in an employment setting for sexual innuendo, unwanted sexual propositions, and inappropriate touching but, regrettably, such conduct happens. When it does, victims should be able to choose our court system as the venue for their complaints, not be forced into a secrecy-veiled arbitration process.”
Sent to Majority and Minority leaders of both the House and Senate, the multi-state letter notes that many employers require their workers – as a condition of employment – to sign agreements mandating that sexual harassment claims be resolved through an arbitration process instead of court proceedings.
These arbitration requirements often are included in the “fine print” of lengthy employment contracts, the letter points out, leaving many employees unaware of the strictures placed on them “until they have been sexually harassed and attempt to bring suit.”
The letter asserts that the serious misconduct alleged in many sexual harassment cases should not be left in the hands of “decision makers who are not trained as judges, are not qualified to act as courts of law, and are not positioned to ensure that … victims are accorded both procedural and substantive due process.”
The letter also raises concern about the mandatory secrecy that typically attends mandatory arbitration. Such a veil of confidentiality can keep other workplace sexual harassment victims in the dark, the states note, and ultimately prevent them from coming forward about their own victimization.
“Ending mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims would help to put a stop to the culture of silence that protects perpetrators at the cost of their victims,” the letter states.
The letter goes on to observe that Congress has both “opportunity and cause” to champion the rights of victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, and urges that it enact appropriate legislation “to ensure that sexual harassment victims have a right to their day in court.”
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