What the new law on sexual abuse can (and can’t) do for survivors

If you signed an agreement that included language about mandatory arbitration of disputes, that no longer applies if there’s an issue involving sexual harassment or assault. 

Thanks to a new law passed with strong bipartisan support in Congress and signed by President Joe Biden last month, employers, doctors and other service providers can no longer silence those who allege this kind of misconduct by requiring them to settle their claims outside of court.

Mandatory arbitration has “shielded perpetrators and silenced survivors

The new federal law is called the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021. In signing the bill into law, President Biden noted that mandatory arbitration has “shielded perpetrators and silenced survivors” in the past.

Serial predators – some of them very powerful men – have been allowed to continue their behavior because their actions were kept quiet. Their subsequent victims often felt alone. Biden noted that mandatory arbitration has “kept survivors from knowing if others have experienced the same thing.”

The law applies not just to contracts signed after it took effect, but to those signed in the past and currently in place. A person with an employment agreement that requires arbitration can take a sexual harassment lawsuit to court if they choose.

The new law doesn’t address NDAs

For those advocates fighting to end the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence those with sexual harassment and assault claims, the work continues. The president’s detractors have pointed out that the new federal law doesn’t prevent NDAs that prohibit employees from speaking out about their abuse. That can be accomplished by individual state laws, however.

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, assault or misconduct, it’s important to know what your rights are under both federal and Colorado law. Having experienced guidance can help you seek the justice and compensation you deserve.

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