New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has signed on to a multistate letter to Congress today urging its leaders to pass a ban on mandatory arbitration of on-the-job sexual harassment claims.
Grewal joins 55 other attorneys general from across the country in signing the letter.
According to the letter, the “fine print” of employment contracts often requires workers, as a condition of their employment, to handle sexual harassment claims through an arbitration process rather than through court proceedings.
“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,” Grewal said in a statement. “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.”
Congress is currently considering legislation to address the issue, according to the letter.
“While there may be benefits to arbitration provisions in other contexts, they do not extend to sexual harassment claims,” asserted the letter. “Victims of such serious misconduct should not be constrained to pursue relief from decision makers who are not trained as judges, are not qualified to act as courts of law, and are not positioned to ensure that such victims are accorded both procedural and substantive due process.”
The letter, which is addressed to minority and majority leaders of the House and Senate by name, also covers the confidentiality requirement often associated with mandatory arbitration.
“This veil of secrecy may then prevent other persons similarly situated from learning of the harassment claims so that they, too, might pursue relief,” it said.
In regard to impending legislation about sexual harassment arbitration, Grewal and others are urging for “appropriately-tailored legislation to ensure that sexual harassment victims have a right to their day in court.”