Samantha Bee looked at the painful ramifications of forced arbitration on Full Frontal Wednesday. She spoke with former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson about how arbitration silences victims of sexual assault in the workplace.
Forced arbitration, as Bee explained, is a legal strategy that allows companies accused of wrongdoing to keep cases out of the courtroom. Customers or employees must bring their cases before private arbiters that the companies themselves have often hired. This leads to rulings that predominately favor corporations. The clauses that make this legal strategy possible are typically buried in the fine print of contracts or terms of service agreements.
“You probably didn’t even notice the forced arbitration clause at the beginning of our show,” Bee joked, “saying, ‘That by watching this program, you agree to arbitrate any complaints about trauma caused when we make you picture Mario Batali’s penis having a ponytail just like the one on his head.'”
Forced arbitration cases are typically accompanied by non-disclosure agreements, which can be especially detrimental when it comes to sexual assault. Not only do NDAs keep stories from going public, but they also prevent co-workers from sharing information about sexual predators with each other. This is how former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes was able to subject women to harassment for decades, until Carlson finally sued him for sexual harassment.
Recently, Carlson has become a prominent activist for ending forced arbitration in sexual harassment cases. In an interview with Bee, Carlson spoke about how she helped introduce a bi-partisan bill on the issue in the House and Senate, and offered advice for other ways to curtail this legal strategy.
“People can get involved on the local level – they can change laws locally, they can change laws at the state level, they can call their members of congress,” Carlson said. “You can also be proactive within the confines of your own workplace structure. You can get together and say, ‘You know what, maybe we should go as a group and talk to HR and say we don’t like arbitration clauses in our contracts.’ You can have a voice inside the workplace. If there was ever a time to do that, the time is now. Collectively, our voice is so much stronger than just one person.”