A bill that would have forced Missouri’s workers to settle workplace discrimination lawsuits through private arbitration as opposed to the courts has died in committee. The bill would have strengthened the enforceability of employee contracts that require employees to settle workplace discrimination lawsuits via private arbitration as opposed to the court. The bill would have also made it much more difficult for courts to toss the agreements.
The proposed bill was presented amid a larger effort toward tort reform in the Republican-dominated Missouri congress. Rep. Kevin Corlew, who sponsored the bill, said that it would make employee discrimination lawsuits cheaper to litigate while simultaneously making them “fairer” for companies. Missouri legislators believed this will help make the state more friendly for outside businesses and investors.
The bill, however, was opposed on both sides of the aisle as Congress considers pressing in the opposite direction. This is largely believed to have been inspired by the impact of the #MeToo movement.
#MeToo Movement Forces Global Changes Toward Policy Reform
While some criticized the #MeToo movement for various reasons, it is hard to dismiss the impact that it has had on both public and legislative policy. What started with widespread allegations against Harvey Weinstein, has continued in an avalanche of women sharing their stories over social media. As friends, loved ones, and co-workers were forced to look at the impact that sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault have had on the lives of those closest to them, many were left wondering what they could do.
In Congress, a bill being championed by Kirsten Gillibrand (D – NY) and Lindsey Graham (R – SC) would put a stop to employment contracts that force arbitration in cases of sexual harassment or discrimination. Critics of forced arbitration believe that employees end up waiving their rights to take their case to court, and workplace misconduct ends up being sealed as part of these agreements. They also believe that bans on forced arbitration will help put an end to a “culture of silence” that harms women who are attempting to bring sexual harassment and misconduct to light.
Last year, a Republican-controlled Senate signed the controversial SB 43. Amid several worker-unfriendly measures was one that insulated the perpetrators of sexual misconduct from being directly sued by the victims. While the victim was still at liberty to sue the company for fostering a hostile work environment, the perpetrator in question was issued a free pass by the legal system.
The extent of enforcement and constitutionality of SB 43 remain up in the air. However, the #MeToo movement has done its part to kill at least one added measure that would give employers even more control over their employees and their right to sue for misconduct.
Have You Been the Victim of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
If so, contact HKM Employment Law of Kansas City immediately. The earlier that you involve a lawyer in the dispute, the better off you will be. Give us a call at 816.607.4691 and we will begin discussing your case immediately.