Congress ends forced arbitration in sexual assault and sexual harassment claims
On March 3, 2022, Congress passed a bipartisan bill eliminating forced arbitration in sexual assault and sexual harassment claims. H.R. 4445 amends the Federal Arbitration Act to make it easier for victims of sexual assault and/or harassment to bring suit in court and not be forced to arbitrate their legal claims. The bill provides that:
Prospective plaintiffs, not the defendants, get to choose whether to litigate their sexual assault or harassment claims in court or through arbitration. Individuals are no longer forced to arbitration and have this right to choose even if they previously signed an agreement limiting their legal remedies to arbitration only.
Second, individuals may choose to bring suit individually or as a class (through a class-action lawsuit). This right also exists regardless of whether the individual signed an agreement waiving their right to collective legal action.
Third, the applicability of H.R. 4445 to a given case is to be decided by a judge not an arbitrator. This is a major shift from prior law.
Fourth, this law is retroactive. Any existing forced arbitration clauses or contracts are now voidable, even if the individual signed the forced arbitration agreement before H.R. 4445 became law. Prior concluded cases cannot be reopened and litigated in court.
Fifth, H.R. 4445 isn’t limited to employment claims. Other people potentially affected by this law include clients, customers, patients and consumers. This is because many consumer services often require the consumer to sign a contract forcing them to arbitrate any legal claims concerning sexual harassment or assault.
If you have been the victim of sexual assault or sexual harassment, give Ferrell & Brown a call today for a free consultation to evaluate our claims and rights under the law.