Two United States bills that are both against workplace sexual assault cases going into arbitration by force are being put up against each other in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over arbitration law. However, the two cover distinctly different breadths of these problems, namely those regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Though the Chamber is not necessarily in opposition to one of these, it is in greater support of the more narrow of the two.

 

On November 4th, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill called the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, and it passed with unanimous support by voice vote. The bill was introduced by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, and the Gillibrand-Graham bill has received bipartisan support.

 

Although the Gillibrand-Graham bill is not as broad as some would like, it would still allow survivors of workplace sexual misconduct the right to take claims to civil court. It’s also a sign of legitimate progress in Congress, and it follows the trend of removing cases from arbitration. According to Prospect, removing cases from arbitration is quite popular.

 

However, the night before the Gillibrand-Graham bill was passed, another one was also presented by Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst, who is not a member of the Judiciary Committee. This would prohibit arbitration to be forced upon sexual assault cases, but only give what is described as “window dressing” rights to workplace sexual harassment survivors. This would make it harder for those subject to sexual harassment to get justice, even though the rulings are rarely on the victim’s side of these cases anyway.

 

One aide states, “It stands for the proposition: Harass employees all you want, just don’t assault them, which is a gross claim.” And Neil Bradley of the United States Chamber claims that support toward the Ernst bill is a high priority, and that the Chamber would be watching to see who supports it, according to a letter from the US Chamber. Regardless, the existence of the Ernst bill didn’t take away bipartisan support for the Gillibrand-Graham bill. Though there are allegations that the Chamber of Commerce has been trying to vie for the narrower bill in order to pull away support from the broader.

 

Today, there’s a hearing in regards to enforced arbitration, featuring victims who’ve been assaulted by company CEOs. Tomorrow, there will be a markup of the bill, as well as the offer of another narrow substitute introduced by Lesko and Bass. A source lobbying for the broader bill claims that the House Republicans are trying to create some “cover” during the hearing and the markup.

 

In an attempt to make the issue more black and white, Prospect Carlson has stated, “I ask this question to anyone misinformed about this: ‘Raise your hand if you favor women and men being sexually harassed in the workplace and being silenced.’ No hands go up.” Additionally, he describes it as “a horrifying Washington-knows-best, corporations-know-best philosophy.”

 

There are also quotes from Graham, one of the bill introducers, himself. According to Forbes, Graham claims that “when it comes to sexual assault and sexual harassment, that you cannot sign your rights away just by working somewhere or receiving a service.” Prospect Carlson rang in agreement to this sentiment, stating “This is an historic opportunity to end silencing mechanisms that prevent survivors from speaking out, and it will allow survivors the ability to speak openly and protect others in [the] workplace across the country.”

 

As a note, the bill does include an exception for arbitration clauses in union contracts.

 

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Neama Rahmani is the President and co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers.

Neama graduated from UCLA at the age of 19 and Harvard Law School at the age of 22, making him one of the youngest graduates in the 200-year history of the…

Neama Rahmani is the President and co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers.

Neama graduated from UCLA at the age of 19 and Harvard Law School at the age of 22, making him one of the youngest graduates in the 200-year history of the law school. Upon graduation, Neama was hired by O’Melveny & Myers, the largest law firm in Los Angeles, where he represented companies such as Disney, Marriott, and the Roman Catholic Church.

But Neama wanted to help ordinary people, not corporations, so he joined the United States Attorney’s Office, where he prosecuted drug and human trafficking cases along the United States-Mexico border. While working as a federal prosecutor, Neama captured and successfully prosecuted a fugitive murderer and drug kingpin who had terrorized Southern California and was featured on “America’s Most Wanted.” Neama was then appointed to be the Director of Enforcement of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, an independent watchdog that oversees and investigates the elected officials and highest level employees of the City of Los Angeles, including the Mayor and City Council. He held that position until becoming a trial lawyer for the people.

Neama has extensive trial experience. He has led teams of more than 170 attorneys in litigation against the largest companies in the world. Neama has successfully tried dozens of cases to verdict as lead trial counsel, and has argued before both state and federal appeals courts. Over the course of his career, Neama has handled thousands of cases as attorney of record and has helped his clients obtain more than $1 billion in settlements and judgments.