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Forced arbitration of sexual assault and harassment coming to an end

By Mike O’Brien

The United States Senate passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act in February. The legislation had previously been approved by the House of Representatives, and now awaits President Biden’s signature.

Once signed, the new law will amend the Federal Arbitration Act to make pre-dispute mandatory arbitration agreements unenforceable with respect to claims of sexual assault or sexual harassment. Rather than being required to arbitrate such claims, the employee-plaintiff will have the option to bring the case in court or before an arbitrator.

The bill had broad support in both political parties. Importantly, the law does not apply to arbitration agreements for other types of employment-related claims. Employers who use mandatory arbitration agreements should consult with experienced employment law counsel about how this new law may impact them.

Employer to pay $5 million to settle EEOC discrimination lawsuit

In February, the EEOC announced that an employer has agreed to pay $5 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit brought by the agency. EEOC alleged that the employer, a furniture and mattress company, had engaged in a “nationwide pattern or practice of sex discrimination against qualified female applicants” for sales and warehouse positions. Some stores, according to the EEOC, had not hired any women in sales or warehouse roles in a number of years. Moreover, managers allegedly threw away job applications submitted by women, and said that “women would not ‘do as great a job at selling furniture as men’” and could not do warehouse work because “women can’t lift.” Managers were also reported to have called female employees “a distraction” for male workers.

In addition to paying the monetary settlement, the company has also agreed to hire a Title VII coordinator, develop a recruitment plan, and train all employees about discrimination and retaliation. It must also periodically report to the EEOC regarding the number of female applicants for sales and warehouse jobs, and the number hired. Finally, it agreed to offer jobs to qualified female applicants it previously passed over. EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows praised the outcome, saying: “Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring is absolutely critical to our work to advance equal employment opportunity and to help provide access to good jobs for workers . . . All workers have a right to earn a living free of discrimination, and sex discrimination has no place in hiring decisions.”









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