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Did an arbitration clause block your workplace harassment claim?

After the #MeToo campaign gained national attention, California legislators began taking stronger measures to protect people from harassment and make reporting less intimidating. Still, harassment continues to take place in the workplace.

Until recently, some workers who had summoned the courage to come forward were met with another roadblock: an arbitration clause in their employment agreement. With AB 3080 in the works, legislators are working to make this barrier a thing of the past.

What arbitration clauses do

In many ways, an arbitration clause can seem harmless. With the stack of paperwork to sign when starting a new job, it is no surprise that many new employees miss this small section of print. Of course, in the excitement of starting a new job, it never crosses their mind that a great opportunity could turn into a nightmare.

Unfortunately, if you are being harassed at work and you want it to stop, an arbitration clause can make your claim a lot more difficult. Rather than having the option of settling the case or going to court, an arbitration makes a difficult situation seem even more difficult.

The limitations proposed in the new legislation would help more than victims of harassment. If the bill passes, employers would also no longer be able to enforce an arbitration clause in wage and hour claims, discrimination claims and retaliation claims.

No longer a condition for employment

If AB 3080 passes, employers would no longer be able to make signing an arbitration clause a condition for employment.

As things stand now, however, if you do not like the arbitration clause in the contract, you can work somewhere else. This “take it or leave it” attitude could leave you with the feeling that you do not have a choice but to sign the contract. Especially if you have had a difficult time finding work.

Invalidating these clauses and removing the ability of employers to use your agreement to them as a condition for employment would level the playing field and give workers the opportunity to report discriminatory and harassing conditions on the job. 

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