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Durbin, Gillibrand, Graham Celebrate Senate Passage of Landmark Bill to Void and Prevent Forced Arbitration Agreements for Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault

Bill now heads to President Biden's desk for signing

WASHINGTON Today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in announcing the Senate passage of the bipartisan Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, legislation that will prevent perpetrators from being able to push survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault into the secretive, biased process of forced arbitration. Under the bill, forced arbitration clauses will no longer prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors from seeking justice and public accountability under the laws meant to protect them. Following the passage, the Senators held a press conference celebrating the landmark bill with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and former Fox News anchor and advocate Gretchen Carlson.

The bill was first introduced in 2017 and reintroduced last year. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill unanimously this past fall and it has wide, bipartisan support in the Senate, with ten Republican cosponsors, as well as in the House.

“For survivors of sexual harassment or assault, forced arbitration not only deprives them of their rights to seek accountability, but it requires the misconduct to be concealed from public view. With passage of today’s bill, things are going to change,” Durbin said. “This bill will give survivors of sexual assault and harassment a choice to go to court instead of being forced into arbitration under the fine print of contracts. To the many survivors out there who worked hard to make this day happen, thank you. I’m grateful for your courage and that Congress responded. Your decision to fight for your rights means that other survivors won’t be silenced by forced arbitration ever again.”    

Durbin also commended the lead sponsor of the House version of the legislation, Representative Cheri Bustos.

Forced arbitration clauses are buried in the fine print of everything from employment agreements and ubiquitous terms and conditions to everyday digital click-through “agreements.” For example, many patients who were sexually assaulted in a nursing home or women pervasively harassed at work are currently unable to tell their story in a public court of law because of forced arbitration.

The bill has been endorsed by American Association for Justice (AAJ), Public Citizen, the National Women’s Law Center, the National Partnership for Women & Families, Futures Without Violence, Jewish Women International, Lift Our Voices, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Network to End Domestic Violence, RAINN, RALIANCE, and Sexual Violence Prevention Association.