In a victory for the victims of sexual harassment and abuse everywhere, a little-known bill has passed the Senate and is on its way to Biden’s desk. The new law, which would take effect immediately when signed, will stop the practice of forced arbitration behind the scenes when sexual harassment victims are forced to settle without publicity rather than tell the world what scoundrels men in positions of power really can be.
New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has long championed the bill and is one of its lead authors, said the bill “will give survivors their day in court, allow them to discuss their cases publicly and end the days of institutional protection for harassers.”
“It will help us fix a broken system that protects perpetrators and corporations and end the days of silencing survivors,” Gillibrand said on the Senate floor Thursday.
Why this change requires an act of Congress is not exactly clear, but it is welcome in a time where sex scandals pop up more often than the mechanical animals in Whack-a-mole.
The bill’s passage comes a few years after the #MeToo movement launched cases of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace into the public sphere, revealing just how often men in positions of power settle cases and silence victims by using secretive processes.
These practices have allowed some men to move on to new jobs without having to reveal to the public that claims had ever been filed against them.
This bill would for the first time ensure that survivors of sexual harassment and assault have the option of suing their abusers in state, tribal, or federal court.
So, now, victims of sexual harassment can make a federal case out of their ordeal. Every now and then an issue comes along that Congress adopts just because it seems like the right thing to do. This is one of those times.
The question is does the federal court system have the capacity for the additional workload.
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