Recently introduced federal legislation would void agreements that require arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination claims.
The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (Democrat, New York), Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican, South Carolina), and Rep. Cheri Bustos (Democrat, Illinois), was prompted by publicity about the claims against Sterling Jewelers for gender discrimination, Bustos said in a press conference.
When female Sterling employees came forward with reports of discrimination and harassment, “they were forced into a secret arbitration process,” Bustos said. “That meant that their stories would never see the light of day.”
This legislation “would say that if you are one of 60 million Americans who have mandatory arbitration as a condition of your employment, we think you ought to have a choice,” she added. “We think you ought to have an option to take your case to court.”
Signet, Sterling’s parent company, has said that the class-action arbitration against it, now in its ninth year, covers gender discrimination, not sexual harassment, although several harassment complaints were included in the over 200 affidavits submitted for the arbitration. It has called the image painted by those complaints “distorted and inaccurate” and said they present a “distorted, negative image of the company.”
Attending the news conference was a former Kay Jewelers employee, as well as Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox and Friends anchor who resigned from the channel amid claims of sexual harassment.
Signet spokesperson David Bouffard told JCK: “We are currently reviewing the legislation and therefore cannot comment further on any specifics. Signet is committed to maintaining a safe and inclusive workplace, and we remain confident that the systems and practices in place for filing grievances are fully compliant with legal requirements.”
(Top image: From left: Bustos, Gillibrand, Carlson, Graham; image courtesy of the office of Rep. Cheri Bustos)