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Shaheen Statement on Senate-Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Void and Prevent Forced Arbitration Agreements for Sexual Harassment and Assault

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued the following statement after voting in favor of the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, legislation that eliminates mandatory arbitration agreements in civil cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault, giving survivors of workplace harassment the right to sue their employer in open court. The legislation passed the Senate today by a voice vote after previously passing the House of Representatives. It will now head to the President’s desk to be signed into law. Shaheen cosponsored companion legislation in the Senate, which is led by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). 

“This bipartisan legislation is a long overdue and critical step forward to help survivors of sexual harassment and assault seek justice,” said Shaheen. “No one should ever feel unsafe or unsupported in the workplace, which is why this legislation is so important. Over the last several years, our nation has experienced a sea change in our determination to combat toxic workplaces that allow harassment or abuse to go unchecked. This bipartisan bill builds on the progress we’ve made to enact policy that supports survivors and holds perpetrators accountable. I look forward to seeing the President swiftly sign it into law.”  

Specifically, the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act would eliminate mandatory arbitration agreements in the following instances: 

  • Unwelcome sexual advances; 
  • Unwanted physical contact that is sexual in nature, including assault; 
  • Unwanted sexual attention, including unwanted sexual comments and propositions for sexual activity; 
  • Conditioning professional, educational, consumer, health care, or long-term care benefits on sexual activity; and 
  • Retaliation for rejecting unwanted sexual attention. 

As Chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds programs under the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), Shaheen has led efforts in the Senate to boost services and programs for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. This includes legislation to reauthorize and expand pro bono legal resources for victims and survivors. Last August, Shaheen introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Grassley (R-IA) that would help ensure federal rights for survivors of sexual assault – which were codified by Shaheen’s Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act– are recognized and protected at the state level. Shaheen has secured the highest funding level ever for Violence Against Women Act programs for four consecutive years in government funding legislation. In fiscal year 2022 funding legislation released by the Senate Appropriations Committee in October, Shaheen against successfully worked to boost funding for the fifth year, totaling $760 million