Google and Facebook recently announced that they were ending their policy of insisting that workers settle their sexual harassment claims through binding private arbitration. Whether that has any spillover effect to other major corporations, or even smaller businesses, depends on public pressure and legislation, says Clayton Hearn, a labor and employment lawyer with Texas-based Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler & Hailey PC.
“It has been common practice for these tech giants and other companies to force their employees to settle matters of harassment through the arbitration process, forgoing the right to air disputes through the court system. A recent Supreme Court decision gives companies even greater power to enforce such agreements, applying arbitration even to labor union members.
“But attorneys and groups supporting workers’ rights are applauding the move by the tech giants because historically, arbitration favors management, and in the era of #MeToo, the issue is receiving more scrutiny.
“The same level of political and social pressure does not seem to be present across all industries and regions. Companies in more conservative areas may not feel compelled to end forced arbitration, especially given the Supreme Court’s approval of it. Absent intense media attention and public pressure, it’s unclear if even these technology leaders would have abandoned the practice.
“The short answer to whether companies across the spectrum of geography and industry will adopt these policies will likely depend on whether they are forced to either through business pressure or legislation.”
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