The former Fox News Network host, whose new book ‘Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back’ is out Tuesday, delivers a personal message about ending workplace harassment.
Josmar Taveras

SAN FRANCISCO — A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation that would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment agreements that advocates say silence women in sexual harassment and gender discrimination cases.

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill. and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., are sponsoring the legislation, Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act. GOP co-sponsors are Sen. Lindsey Graham and Reps. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.

Forced arbitration allows sexual harassment and assault to fester in the workplace by keeping victims from discussing their cases publicly or taking them to court, said former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson, who was on Capitol Hill Wednesday for a press conference announcing the legislation.

“Sexual harassment is not partisan because women from all walks of life and politics are targeted,” Carlson said. “Let’s get on the right side of history with both parties. Because when somebody decides to sexually harass you, they don’t ask you if you are a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, like I am, first. They just do it.”

Arbitration clauses, which are often a condition of employment, affect an estimated 60 million Americans. Voiding these clauses in sexual harassment and discrimination cases would deter sexual harassment and aid victims by pulling back the veil of secrecy on bad behavior in the workplace, the bill’s backers say. 

More than half of American workers — 56% — are subject to mandatory arbitration, according to the Economic Policy Institute’s survey of nonunion private-sector employers.

Graham encouraged business leaders and the business community to support the bill. “The reason we need to get rid of these clauses is that it’s good for America,” he said. 

The role that forced arbitration plays in silencing women has become a hotly debated topic with the national #MeToo outcry over sexual harassment.