In the summer of 2016, Gretchen Carlson shook the media world to its core. In a series of events that still seems more suited to a big-screen drama than to real life, Carlson brought Fox News to its knees by suing the company’s Chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes, for sexual harassment. The move led to a domino effect that ended with the ousting of Ailes and a PR nightmare for Fox News as dozens of other women alleged similar treatment by Ailes and exposed a culture of misogyny at the conservative news outlet.
What many didn’t know at the time was that Carlson’s legal strategy in pursuing justice was severely complicated by a little-known clause: forced arbitration. For years, companies have been forcing workers to sign away all their rights just to get a job. The language is often buried in paperwork upon hire and is full of legalese that few understand. In recent years, there’s been an explosion in the use of forced arbitration agreements to silence employees when they’re being sexually harassed, exploited or mistreated on the job.
While Carlson ultimately settled her case, the horrific experience of fighting forced arbitration stuck with her. She’s now made it her mission to protect other women from this rigged system.
Carlson brought her cause to Sacramento yesterday, advocating for the passage of AB 3080 (Gonzalez Fletcher), a bill, sponsored by the California Labor Federation, that would put an end to forced arbitration in California.
I believe that forced arbitration is not only unjust, it is un-American. I hope legislators from both sides of the aisle will get to Gov. Brown’s office and ask him to sign this bill.
Carlson’s visit to the State Capitol was timely. AB 3080 is the best chance California has at curbing a problem that is quickly reaching epidemic proportions and threatening all the good laws our state has passed in recent years to protect workers from being exploited on the job. In a recent Economic Policy Institute report, it was estimated that nearly 70% of corporations are using these agreements to skirt the law and force workers into a system they rig. The research also showed those most impacted are women, people of color and low-wage workers.
The bill has a couple of very important provisions. It stipulates that no one should have to sign away her rights just to get a job. And companies can’t retaliate against workers for refusing to sign a forced arbitration agreement.
Big corporations are fighting this bill with a big-money lobbying blitz. They like the rigged system they’ve created that keeps working people from getting justice when they’re sexually harassed or otherwise abused on the job. That’s why Labor has joined bill author Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, Carlson, Uber whistleblower Susan Fowler, the Restaurant Opportunities Centers and others to pass AB 3080.
(Forced Arbitration) allows harassers, unbelievably, to stay in their jobs, even as victims, simply for having the courage to come forward, are pushed out. And it also silences other victims who might have stepped forward if they had just known what else was going on inside their workplace.
Women – and all workers – deserve better. It takes working people standing together to make big things, like enacting AB 3080, happen. We’re ready.