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The Senate has passed legislation barring contracts that force people to settle sexual assault or harassment cases through arbitration rather than in court, a process that often benefits employers and keeps misconduct allegations from becoming public.
Watch the press conference in the player above.
This comes after the House passed the measure, on a 335-97 House vote, reflecting rare bipartisan agreement in Congress that stems from the #MeToo movement that prompted a national reckoning on the way sexual misconduct claims are handled in the U.S.
Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, who pushed the legislation and has been vocal in the Senate about curbing sexual harassment and assault, said the measure is long overdue, having first been introduced in 2017.
An estimated 60 million American workers have the clauses in their employment contracts, Gillibrand said, but she noted the practice is not just used in employment contracts.
Binding arbitration clauses can be tucked into agreements for other services, barring lawsuits against nursing homes and massage parlors from residents and patients who claim they were sexually assaulted.
The widespread practice of including forced arbitration in employment contracts has come under fire in recent years for shielding companies and perpetrators, forcing employees to privately settle claims of sexual assault or harassment without a jury and a chance to appeal the decision.
Business groups and other defenders of arbitration argue it is a faster and less costly way to resolve disputes.
The bill would bar the clauses in future contracts and also invalidate those clauses in any existing contracts, which Gillibrand said would open the door for people who have lawyers to come forward and pursue claims.
Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, who accused the now-deceased network CEO Roger Ailes of making unwanted advances and harming her career when she rejected him, testified in support of the legislation. Binding arbitration was used in some employee contracts at the network.
Some companies, including Facebook, Uber and Microsoft have on their own decided to end the practice forced arbitration for sexual misconduct claims.
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