Google and Facebook Take a Small Step in the Right Direction

Katz, Marshall & Banks partner Debra Katz was quoted in a Washington Post article, “Google and Facebook ended forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims. Why more companies could follow.” Pressured by an employee walkout, Google announced changes to their sexual harassment policy last Thursday. Facebook followed suit the following day.

Eliminating the use of forced arbitration in the workplace – a required agreement to settle employment disputes out of court – has been a goal of leaders of the #MeToo movement.  They claim that the practice silences victims of sexual harassment and denies them their day in court.

It’s unclear the effect that the tech giants’ decision will have on other large employers.  Facebook and Google are not the first employers to end forced arbitration for sexual harassment – Microsoft and a few large law firms took similar steps last year. 

“I do think you’re going to see more of it,” said Ms. Katz. “If you want to have as a principle of your company that you care about sexual harassment, this is a minimal gesture.”

Some states have taken matters into their own hands and prohibited mandatory arbitration in cases of sexual harassment. These law are likely to be challenged in federal court, as they likely conflict with federal law.

Whether or not states can prohibit mandatory arbitration, employers can stop requiring their employees to agree to it as a prerequisite for getting and keeping their jobs.  It would behoove employers to follow Google and Facebook’s lead of creating a fairer process for victims of sexual harassment.

Read the full story here.