Facebook Drops Forced Arbitration for Sexual Harassment

As I blogged about previously, when former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson sued due to alleged sexual harassment by her former boss, Roger Aisles, a major issue was the arbitration clause in Carlson’s contract.

The clause said:

Any controversy, claim or dispute arising out of or relating to this Agreement or [Carlson's] employment shall be brought before a mutually selected three-member arbitration panel and held in New York City...

Carlson sued only Aisles personally, and not Fox. Aisles contended that this was a "transparent tactical strategy" for avoiding arbitration under the employment contract.

Arbitration Clauses

As the Washington Post noted,

According to a 2017 study by the Economic Policy Institute, the percentage of employees subject to mandatory arbitration clauses increased seven-fold between 1995 and 2017, with 56 percent of non-union private-sector workers now covered by these so-called agreements. The EPI has extrapolated from this data that more than 60 million American workers are barred from ever taking employment claims to open court. Given that women are 47 percent of the workforce, that means close to 30 million women cannot go to court if faced with sexual harassment.

(Emphasis added.)

But some companies are changing their policies on the issue.

In May, Uber and Lyft announced they would no longer require arbitration to resolve claims of sexual harassment by drivers, passengers, and employees.

As the New York Times reports, Facebook has now followed suit.

Facebook took action a day after Google announced a similar change. Airbnb has also done the same.

Walkout

Recently, 20,000 Google employees staged an international walkout to demand changes in the way the company handled sexual harassment matters.

According to Fortune, about 20% of Google’s workforce took part in the protest.

The walkout was inspired by news that Google paid Android co-founder Andy Rubin $90 million over four years after he left the company in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations.

An employee who had been having an extramarital affair with Rubin said he coerced her into a sexual act in a hotel room in 2013, according to the New York Times.

As the Times reported,

Mr. Rubin was one of three executives that Google protected over the past decade after they were accused of sexual misconduct. In two instances, it ousted senior executives, but softened the blow by paying them millions of dollars as they departed, even though it had no legal obligation to do so. In a third, the executive remained in a highly compensated post at the company. Each time Google stayed silent about the accusations against the men.

Employee Demands

In addition to the end of forced arbitration, the Google employees also demanded:

  • A commitment to end inequalities between men and women in salaries and opportunities for advancement
  • A public transparency report about sexual harassment at the company
  • A clear sexual misconduct reporting process
  • The appointment of a Google employee representative to the company’s board of director
  • Elevation of the status of Chief Diversity Officer, making the person answer to the CEO

According to the Times,

Because [sexual harassment] claims are often kept under wraps in confidential arbitration hearings, critics say harassers often move easily to other jobs without warning to future victims.

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