Senator Ernst Introduces Bill to Mediate Sexual Harassment Disputes in the Workplace

November 12, 2021

Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the Resolving Sexual Assault and Harassment Disputes Act (S. 3143), which would prohibit the enforcement of pre-dispute arbitration agreements and seek to ensure that fair procedures are used in arbitrations involving workplace sexual harassment claims.

Notable provisions include:

  • Prohibition of the enforceability of pre-dispute arbitration agreements in employment contracts with respect to sexual assault and harassment claims.

  • Allowing a plaintiff to publicly discuss a sexual assault or harassment claim that will be arbitrated (unless both parties mutually agree otherwise) with the right to report harassment to civil and criminal law enforcement authorities.

  • Reduction of attorneys’ monetary gain for sexual assault and harassment claims by limiting the percentage of the reward payment to the plaintiff’s attorney and ensuring that victims rather than attorneys receive any reward first.

Outlook:  The bill has been referred to the Judiciary Committee and currently does not have any additional co-sponsors.  It is not likely the bill will get any traction this Congress, with Democrats holding the majority in both chambers.  Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that at least one Senate Republican is willing to impose new limits on arbitration agreements, which have come under attack from congressional Democrats.