- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Gretchen Carlson, one of the many now-former Fox News talents to come forward in recent months to speak of sexual harassment at the cable giant, is now pressing Congress to get in the employee rights game by passing a bill that would make it easier for workplace victims of criminal behaviors to come forward and sue — without having to use the corporation’s forced arbitration clause.

The bill she wants approved, the Arbitration Act of 2017, H.R. 1374, from Democrat Rep. Henry “Hank” Johnson, “prohibits a predispose arbitration agreement from being valid or enforceable if it requires arbitration of an employment, consumer, antitrust, or civil rights dispute.”

That means: out of the shadows and into the light. And it’s true: Arbitration, when forced rather than voluntary, can be a shady deal.

“The only way to end harassment is to shine a light on it,” Carlson tweeted, just hours after Fox News announced Bill O’Reilly, facing a rising number of sexual harassment accusations, would not be returning to his show. “Ask Congress to pass the Fairness in Arbitration Act. No more silencing women!”

Carlson, as most are aware, sued Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, forcing his resignation in July and winning a $20 million settlement from the corporation.

The Act would open doors for employees to bring large corporations to court and sue in an open setting, instead of having to go the mandated arbitration route. Likely, the legislation has some powerful opponents — think, all the big corporations in America.

Here’s what Consumer Advocates says about forced arbitration: “In forced arbitration, a company requires a consumer or 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 to waive their right to sue, to participate in a class action lawsuit or to appeal. Forced arbitration is mandatory, the arbitrator’s decision is binding and the results are not public.”

It’s a method of controlling the legal process that’s being used by employers, insurance companies, home-builders, car loan sources, credit card corporations and investment entities — even nursing facilities — with increasing frequency.

Voluntary arbitration is fine; forced arbitration, however, is a different beast that falls heavy on the side of favoring the company, but light on the consumer or employee. 

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