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Facebook ends forced arbitration of sexual harassment cases

Discontent among technology workers in California and worldwide has prompted major companies to reform how they handle sexual harassment claims. Facebook, Inc. announced that it will stop requiring employees to address their sexual harassment complaints through arbitration. This decision arose one day after Google made a similar move to end the practice.

A global walkout of employees at Google cast a spotlight on the methods used by the company to handle claims of sexual harassment and assault. As a result, Google chose to stop forcing victims into arbitration as their sole means of resolving their cases. In the announcement from Facebook, a spokesperson said that an amendment to its employee agreements would expand options for employees and leave arbitration as a choice instead of a requirement.

Forcing employees into arbitration is a commonplace practice among businesses. Arbitration grants the arbiter the power to make final decisions and settle a claim. The process eliminates a person's right to file a lawsuit or participate in a class-action case. The results effectively hide employee complaints from the public and prevent victims from speaking about their experiences.

Sexual harassment occurs when a workplace becomes hostile because of unwanted sexual advances, use of lewd language or sharing of sexually explicit materials. A person placed in an uncomfortable position by co-workers or management could consult an attorney. A legal analysis of the situation might inform the person about employee rights and how to lodge a complaint. An attorney may organize evidence, like text messages and witness testimony, and file a formal complaint. Legal guidance might enable someone to obtain a settlement for damages and halt the behavior at work.

Source: CNN, "Facebook will no longer force employees to resolve sexual harassment claims in arbitration", Sara O'Brien, Nov. 9, 2018

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