Forced Arbitration Agreements, Employment Disputes, and Secrecy

Posted in Sexual Harassment on March 1, 2017

business office secretMany people saw the recent New York Times op-ed by Gretchen Carlson, who recently filed a lawsuit against former Fox CEO Roger Ailes alleging sexual harassment in the workplace. In it, she goes into detail on what we need to do as individuals and as a nation in moving forward and fighting sexual harassment, including preventing its cover-up.

One of the main focuses of her op-ed is the fact that employers are currently allowed to force employees to sign contracts with arbitration clauses, mandating that all discrimination disputes—including those involving sexual harassment—be resolved in secret proceedings. Employers also need to reassess sexual harassment training and whether the human resources department is the most effective means of addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Injustice of Arbitration Clauses

At the heart of arbitration clauses is the desire to avoid going to court. Avoiding going to court has its perks for the entity (i.e. the employer) that has drafted the contract, namely that they get to choose the arbitrators and arbitration often tends to favor companies over individuals, but also that going to court makes an issue more public, and arbitration tends to foster more silence and cannot be appealed. Employees who are then the victims of sexual harassment are often unaware of others who have spoken up before or alongside them. This is a serious accountability issue.

There are Options

If you are dealing with an employment contract that brings up arbitration of disputes or which is confusing in any way, often consulting an experienced employment attorney before signing can be critical.

You also have the option of refusing to sign the contract, although many people would be concerned that by not signing, they could lose the job offer. However, it is important to keep in mind that you may have some room to negotiate when it comes to particular provisions in the agreement, especially if an employer hand-picked you to work for them. There are certain terms of the agreement that could be negotiated so that it is fairer, and you can always work with an employment attorney to adjust these provisions.

If  You Have Been the Victim of Sexual Harassment, Contact Us

We know that you may be scared or afraid of losing your job, or even of not being believed. Know that you are not alone: Almost half of all women have been sexually harassed at work.

Workplace harassment cannot be trivialized. Your first step should be speaking with an attorney who is experienced in this specific field. Remember that an attorney is not necessarily going to convince you to bring a lawsuit. He or she may actually explore other options with you first, and your conversation with this attorney is confidential and protected.

You can trust the New York sexual harassment attorneys at Joseph & Norinsberg, LLC. We have been protecting victims in New York City and surrounding areas who have been subject to harassment in the workplace, hostile work environments, retaliation, wage and hour claims, and related issues for years. Contact us today for a free consultation—we are here to help: Call 212-JUSTICE and/or email us at

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