This article was first published in the
Lake Effect Human Resources & Law blog. It is published here with permission from the firm and the author.
On March 4, 2022, President Biden signed the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act,” a new law banning mandatory arbitration for workplace sexual assault and sexual harassment claims.
Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution outside of the court system. Many employment contracts broadly require employees to resolve claims against employers in arbitration.
About the Act
This legislation makes language in existing and future employment contracts related to compulsory arbitration of sexual harassment and sexual assault claims unenforceable, at the option of the person bringing the claim.
The law does not impact arbitration of other types of employment disputes, and applies to claims and disputes going forward, not past or pending claims.
A person bringing a workplace sexual harassment or assault claim may still choose to resolve the claim through arbitration, or they may elect an alternative forum such as mediation, administrative agency proceedings, and state or federalcourt.
What Employers Should Consider
In light of this new law, employers should consider the following steps:
Review employment agreements.
Employers should review employment agreements for language about mandatory arbitration.
Evaluate voluntary mediation services. Nothing in the new legislature prohibits an employee from resolving disputes outside of court voluntarily. If disputes arise in the workplace, mediation is often a good option for all parties.
Typically, mediation is voluntary, confidential, and self- determined, meaning the parties come up with solutions to resolve the dispute. (The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Dispute Resolution Section is a great resource for attorneys who would like more information about dispute resolution.)
Reiterate your commitment to creating a harassment-free environment. Cultivate a workplace where harassment has no place.
Visit WisBar.org to find out more about the State Bar of Wisconsin’s
Dispute Resolution Section and to learn about the benefits of section membership.