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Arbitration agreement in sexual harassment case struck down

On Behalf of | Mar 14, 2023 | Sexual Harassment

A California appeals court has struck down an agreement that would have made a former General Electric product sales specialist settle her sexual harassment claim through arbitration. The woman claims that she was subjected to almost constant sexual harassment while she was employed by the company. She alleges that her supervisor bragged about his sex life, made unwelcome sexual advances toward her and gave her chocolate laced with THC, which is the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana.

Motion to dismiss

GE responded to the woman’s sexual harassment lawsuit by filing a motion to dismiss the case and compel arbitration. The trial court granted the motion because the woman agreed to mandatory arbitration when she checked boxes on an online form during GE’s electronic onboarding process. The court determined that the arbitration agreement was valid because it only applied to the woman’s employment and her claims were all connected to her employment.

Appeals court reverses

A California appellate court took a different view, and it ordered the trial court to deny the motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. The court ruled in this way because federal law now prohibits mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment cases. The appeals court ruled in the woman’s favor even though the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden a year after the woman filed her lawsuit.

The law is on the side of victims

The passage of the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act and the California appeals court ruling suggest that the law is now very much on the side of sexual harassment victims and against employers who try to conceal these matters. Sexual harassment in the workplace should never be tolerated, and it should be hoped that these developments give victims the courage to step forward and hold their harassers responsible.