A bill that would allow persons claiming sexual harassment or sexual assault under any federal, state or tribal law to opt out of any agreement to submit such claims to arbitration, rather than the courts, easily passed the House of Representatives (H.R. 4445) on February 7 and passed the Senate February 10 by voice vote.
Mandatory arbitration clauses are common in employment agreements and some company policies. Mandatory arbitration of employment disputes remains a divisive topic, with strong support for both permitting and outlawing such agreements.
One likely effect of the enactment of H.R. 4445 would be to ensure that any sexual harassment dispute or sexual assault civil claim would play out in the public eye rather than the more private context of arbitration. This may add leverage to the plaintiff's claims. The federal, state or tribal law claims that would be exempted from mandatory arbitration include class actions and other multiparty claims.
President Biden strongly supports the legislation and in due course will sign it into law.