Every attorney general in the U.S. has joined a coalition asking Congress to end secret, forced arbitration of workplace claims of sexual harassment.

Yes, even Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge joined in. This is noteworthy because she has otherwise been a defender of arbitration clauses, which typically puts victims at a disadvantage against powerful corporate interests. For example, there was her support for arbitration of consumer complaints against financial behemoths over credit card and bank charges. In that case, Rutledge wrote:


“The CFPB claims to protect consumers, but in reality this new rule only serves to benefit the profits of class action trial attorneys This rule will rip the benefits of arbitration to settle disputes outside of court right out from under Arkansans and lead to a flood of costly, lengthy litigation. Congress should begin a process in earnest to rescind this anti-consumer rule.”

Seems like trial lawyers will be rubbing their hands at an end to arbitration of sexual harassment claims, particularly in these MeToo times. The threat of publicity can encourage much bigger settlements for plaintiffs, for one thing. Might such a law lead to a “flood of costly, lengthy litigation?”

But let’s take the rare good news when we get it from Rutledge. The tone of the proposal on sexual harassment resolution is far better:


“Specifically, we seek to ensure these victims’ access to the courts, so that they may pursue justice and obtain appropriate relief free from the impediment of arbitration requirements,” the letter states.

Florida’s attorney general Pam Bondi and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein led the coalition.

“Decades of private arbitration proceedings regarding sexual harassment have had the unintended consequence of protecting serial violators and it must end,” Bondi said. “I … look forward to the passage of strong federal legislation to help protect employees from workplace sexual harassment.”All 56 U.S. attorneys general signed a letter issued Monday to leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. They urged lawmakers to pass federal legislation giving victims of workplace sexual harassment access to the judicial system, instead of limiting them to employment contracts mandating alternative dispute resolution.

How easy it would be to insert credit card companies and nursing homes into this letter about the ills of forced arbitration clauses. I’ll leave it to Rutledge to explain the subtle difference. As yet, I’ve receieved no news release from her touting her defense of suing corporations in this case.