Within the past few decades, arbitration has become a prevalent method of resolving disputes between parties across all forms of litigation. Often times, people enter into mandatory arbitration agreements without even knowing or understanding what they are signing. We encounter mandatory arbitration clauses in many spheres of our lives. Employment contracts, utility service contracts, credit card agreements, cellular service agreements, and various consumer goods sale contracts are only some examples where mandatory arbitration clauses are frequently present. Under a mandatory arbitration clause, parties to the agreement present their case to the arbitrator who makes a decision on the merits of the case. There is no judicial involvement. Arbitration became even more prevalent after Congress passed the Federal Arbitration Act to set uniform standards of arbitration and ensure that arbitration agreements are enforced when applicable.
Although arbitration can be an efficient and less costly way to resolve disputes, it is very controversial when applied to cases involving allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Therefore, the signing into law of the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 constitutes a huge victory for plaintiffs who became victims of sexual harassment and/or assault at work. The new legislation defines a sexual assault dispute as any dispute involving any nonconsensual contact as defined by Federal or State law. The sexual harassment dispute is defined as conduct directed at individual or group of individuals which involves unwelcome sexual advances, unwanted physical contact sexual in nature, unwanted sexual attention, conditioning any employment benefits on sexual activity, or retaliation for rejecting unwanted physical attention. Prior to the passage of the Act, if the victims of sexual harassment and/or assault signed a mandatory arbitration agreement as a condition of their employment, under the provisions of the Federal Arbitration Act, they could not file a lawsuit against the offenders without first participating in arbitration. Unfortunately, the employment contracts are often drafted in favor of the employer and employees trying to bring claims against such employer are often unsuccessful. The arbitrators can also be biased to the employer, and because arbitration proceedings are taking place in private settings, victims of sexual assault can be silenced and robbed of having their voices heard. In cases of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault, claims companies especially favor arbitration in order to avoid dissemination of the information and protect the reputation of the business.
Nevertheless, under the new legislation signed into law by President Biden, plaintiffs bringing sexual harassment or sexual assault disputes are not bound by the terms of the mandatory arbitration agreement if it was signed prior to the dispute. Such mandatory arbitration agreement is void and unenforceable. This means that employees who became victims now have an option of taking guilty parties into court and presenting their cases in front of an impartial judge and jury. The new law will bring more transparency into the proceedings involving instances of sexual harassment or sexual assault preventing companies from hiding these crimes. It is also important to mention that the new law applies to all disputes that developed after its passage.
Eames Law Group, Ltd. never stops fighting for our clients, and we will aggressively push cases to trial in order to obtain justice when insurance companies attempt to trample on the rights of our clients. If an insurance company has denied your claim or refused to pay work comp benefits, you owe it to yourself to contact one of the best work comp attorneys in Chicago, Brent Eames, to discuss your rights. If you have been injured, you should immediately contact Brent Eames for a free consultation to discuss your options.
The content of this blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute or establish an attorney-client relationship, nor constitute legal advice. If you wish to discuss any further aspect of the material contained herein, please contact an attorney at Eames Law Group, Ltd.