David, Brody & Dondershine, LLP Experienced General Business Law Attorneys
2100 Reston Parkway, Suite 370
Reston, VA 20191

Arbitration in sexual harassment claims under a critical spotlight

It is certainly important for a law firm retained by a commercial entity to be trial-hardened and always ready to take an employment law matter to court should other dispute resolution methods be unavailing.

That is true concerning virtually every type of employer-worker conflict that can arise in the workplace. Litigation acumen can materially influence results in matters ranging from wage/hour issues and intellectual property protection to termination disputes, discrimination claims and more.

These days, the "more" category might especially underscored by employees' on-the-job sexual harassment claims. Those have often been settled through recourse to private mandatory arbitration that bypasses courts as resolution venues.

Employers across the Washington, D.C., metro area and nationally often regard arbitration as being preferable to formal litigation before a judge and jury to resolve such claims (indeed, most employee grievances). Arbitration is generally viewed as being a cheaper and more convenient alternative. Additionally, business principals often appreciate the relative privacy afforded by the process.

Arbitrating workplace sexual harassment claims is suddenly under a critical spotlight, though. That could make the above-cited litigation readiness of select business law firms a notably distinct and powerful asset in the future.

Here's why. A letter sent to the U.S. Congress last month that was unanimously endorsed by every attorney general in the country demands that the common use of mandatory arbitration to settle workers' sexual harassment claims be stopped. All 50 AGs' want legislation drafted to outlaw the practice.

What they seek is simple. Their communication insists on an automatic right of court access in every harassment case. They say that a public forum is vital to stop a "culture of silence" that often leaves criminal wrongdoing unpunished and victims at a disadvantage.

The letter's strident tone is couched by its sole focus on sexual harassment. The attorneys general make no mention of arbitration continuing to be used to settle other types of workplace complaints, such as wage disputes and discrimination allegations.

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