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Employment contracts and workplace harassment

In Florida and across the United States, workplace harassment and sex discrimination scandals have become mainstay headlines. The #MeToo movement that started with revelations of unwanted sexual advances within elite Hollywood circles has expanded to government entities and corporations. Many legal analysts believe that the current situation would be even more scandalous if a certain provision of employment contracts did not exist.

Arbitration agreements are often designed to keep prospective plaintiffs from going to court and making their grievances public. While there are merits for including these clauses in employment contracts, they are often misused to cover up gross misconduct in the workplace. An arbitration agreement may be effective in handling a case involving wrongful termination due to sexual harassment, but it should not be used to silence an employee who was groped or assaulted at the office.

In and of itself, arbitration is not an improper venue for bringing resolution to workplace harassment issues. In many cases, arbitration can be used to reach an amicable resolution, but it should not preclude employees from filing a complaint before the federal office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Sexual harassment legal assistance is available to individuals who feel that they were pressured into signing employment contracts with arbitration clauses. In the past, some members of Congress have proposed doing away with these arbitration clauses; but those proposals have mostly fizzled.

Employees should not assume that arbitration contracts will take away all their rights. Sexual harassment and all its ugly implications are not conducive to productive and harmonious workplaces. Employees who are victims of lewd comments, insinuation, groping or intimidation may wish to consult with a law firm even if they have signed an employment contract.

Source: KWTX, “What’s inside your contract? Taking a closer look at sexual harassment in the workplace”, Kellie Meyer, 04/07/2018

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