According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), sexually harassment is generally explained as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates that between 25% to 85% of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and nearly one-third of the 90,000 complaints received in 2015 included sexual harassment allegations – needless to say, sexual harassment is an issue all over the country, and Microsoft is changing the landscape.
Forced arbitration is when a company requires a consumer or an employee to submit any dispute that may arise to binding arbitration as a condition of employment or buying a product or service. The employee or consumer is required by law to waive their right to sue, to participate in a class action lawsuit, or to appeal. This is dangerous because it gives companies an “easy out” of being held accountable. The National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) states that forced arbitration is harmful for many reasons:
- Most individuals don’t even know they’ve signed for it.
- It severely limits the action that can be taken on resolving a dispute.
- The customer/employee is generally bound to it, not the company.
- It is a private system that does not involve a judge, jury, or right to an appeal.
- Employees cannot sue for discrimination, harassment, abuse, retaliation, or wrongful termination.
- Consumers cannot sue for negligence, defective products, or scams.
Microsoft, major technology company, has support a Senate bill banning provisions in employment contracts that keep many victims of sexual harassment out of open court. USA Today reports that this is a huge move, as forced arbitration silences victims and allows serial abusers to continue taking place.
Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, who sued Roger Ailes for sabotaging her career because of her rejection of sexual advances, fully supports the move that Microsoft has made. She stated,
“Thank you, Microsoft. This is a huge victory for the last 17 months of hard work I’ve been doing trying to educate the public and companies about the unfair and secret arbitration clauses in employment contracts – specifically with regard to sexual harassment.”
This is a huge step towards justice for those who have endured sexual harassment in the workplace. We should be able to hold people accountable, and if more companies continue in this direction, more justice can be served.
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