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Hidden Settlements Hinder Justice in Workplace Harassment Claims

For someone who has been victimized by sexual harassment, there are numerous considerations when it comes to bringing a lawsuit. Although the #MeToo movement has brought attention to the issues and support for harassment victims, there is still an understandable reluctance to go public and let the world know the story.

Many victims simply want to settle their cases privately and move on. However, there are some important downfalls to these quiet settlements.

The Power of #MeToo is the Visibility

One of the main purposes of the #MeToo movement – which we wrote about in detail in a recent white paper – is the fact that visibility brings victims together to gain strength.

The problem with a closed-door settlement in a workplace sexual harassment claim is that it avoids anyone responsible being held accountable in the court of public opinion. Further, the amount the victim receives is likely to be less in private settlements than it is in courtroom litigation.

Why Do Victims Settle?

The most common reason why workplace sexual harassment victims settle their claims is that their employment contracts have arbitration clauses. They are contractually obligated to not go public with their claims.

A New Horizon

Recently, the country’s Attorneys General have written a unified letter to congressional leaders to change the culture around mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment cases, as reported in the Huffington Post.

“The attorneys general want Congress to end the practice of forcing sexual harassment cases into mandatory arbitration,” the article continues, “secret private courtrooms outside the public justice system… ‘Ending mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims would help to put a stop to the culture of silence that protects perpetrators at the cost of their victims,’ the letter says.”

The Recorder also reports a number of California plaintiffs’ lawyers are urging lawmakers to ban mandatory arbitration clauses and gag orders for workplace harassment claims.

The article quotes employment law specialist Cliff Palefsky as saying “One good public verdict will do more to deter sexual harassment than 100 arbitrations.”

It is important for more victims of workplace sexual harassment to have the courage to make their voices heard. This will ensure true justice and a strong deterrent against further violations in the workplace.