The movement to achieve equality in the workplace is gaining traction. In recent months, we have seen a spike in actions taken to promote fairness and squash unacceptable behavior across many industries. Now, Microsoft is making a big change to protect employees who are victims of sexual harassment.
The company recently announced it will permit employees to settle sexual harassment cases in court rather than privately. The move makes Microsoft one of the first major companies to eliminate forced arbitration clauses.
Forced arbitration is a dispute resolution process often imposed as a condition of employment. These agreements typically state an employee does not have the right to bring a claim against the employer outside a private arbitration system. In other words, the employee waives his or her right to sue in public court.
Although no employee is legally required to accept an arbitration clause, it is often a condition to being hired or receiving an employment-related benefit. For some, that means making the decision to get a job and accept arbitration or not take the job, according to Workplace Fairness, a non-profit organization working to preserve employee rights.
Removing forced arbitration clauses from the workplace promotes more protection and fairness for the individual employee instead of protecting the company’s interests. A study conducted by Cornell University found that compared to employees who bring claims to court, employees in mandatory arbitration are less likely to settle for high monetary amounts and less likely to receive a ruling in their favor. By allowing employees to bring claims in public court, they have a better chance of obtaining the justice and compensation they deserve.
Microsoft’s move is one more action that will protect employees in the future and further the progress of equality in the workplace. The company’s decision to remove forced arbitration clauses will hopefully be the first of many in businesses across the country.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).