How the #MeToo Movement is Breaking the Silence on Arbitration Clauses
Without question, the #MeToo movement has been one of the most impactful and important social campaigns in recent memory. It’s given victims of sexual abuse and harassment a platform to name their accusers and hold powerful individuals accountable for their actions. While the #MeToo movement began in Hollywood, the shockwaves have been felt throughout the country, shining a light on the way victims are silenced with little to recourse.
As we’ve written about in the past, arbitration clauses are agreements buried in terms of service and employment contracts that require individuals to waive their right to sue in court. Instead, those bound by arbitration clauses are forced into private arbitration, a closed-door quasi-legal forum that disproportionately favors employers and corporations. There’s no judge, no jury, and no accountability in the public eye.
But thanks to the #MeToo movement, this legal tactic that has shielded countless powerful individuals is finally beginning to crack.
Bill AB 3080, introduced into California legislature by Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher in March 2018, brings the message of accountability championed by the #MeToo movement into legal precedence. The bill would bar confidentiality agreements regarding harassment, prohibit arbitration agreements for wage and hour, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims, create personal liability for violations of the bill, and prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who refuse to enter into an arbitration agreement.
On August 22, 2018, the California Senate voted to approve AB 3080. The bill is now sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, where he has until the end of September to either veto the bill or sign it into California law. If signed, the new law would apply to any employment contract “entered into, modified, or extended” on or after January 1, 2019.
Even if Governor Brown does sign the bill (he previously vetoed a similar bill in 2015) there will no doubt be immediate legal challenges following the recent Supreme Court decision on arbitration clauses.
The battle is far from over. But if the #MeToo movement has shown us anything, it’s that people are more than happy to fight in the light of day so that others aren’t forced to suffer in darkness.