Congress this week approved legislation to ban the use of forced arbitration in sexual assault and harassment claims in the workplace, The New York Times reports.
The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved the bill after it was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House on Monday.
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill in the coming days.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer touted the rare bipartisan effort, warning lawmakers not to “ignore the genuine chances for progress when both parties agree to move forward on certain topics.”
“We are giving these workers a new path to justice,” said Democratic New York Sen. Kyrsten Gillibrand, who co-sponsored the bill with South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham. “The bill is going to help fix a broken system.”
“I’m a limited-government Republican, but there’s a place for the government when it comes to our daily lives,” added Graham. “There’s plenty of things we can do that are meaningful like this.”
The bill would give survivors of sexual assault and harassment the ability to sue abusers even if they signed an employment contract banning such lawsuits and required the claims to be settled through arbitration.
An estimated 60 million American workers have signed such agreements, which have come under increased scrutiny in the #MeToo era.
Advocates of the bill said such agreements protest abusers and prevent victims from seeking accountability.
Employment lawyers called it one of the most significant changes to labor law in decades.
Republicans pulled back:
The legislation faced some opposition from Republicans, who argued that the federal government had no right to invalidate employment contracts.
But the legislation garnered so much bipartisan support that no Republican senator spoke out against the bill on the Senate floor.
Graham and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appeared side-by-side at a news conference after the bill’s passage, where they praised former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, whose lawsuit against former Fox News chief Roger Ailes brought increased attention to forced arbitration.
“You started it,” Schumer told her. “You had courage.”