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Lift Our Voices co-founders speak on forced arbitration, nondisclosure agreements

Women & Politics Institute hosts Women on Wednesdays webinar

The co-founders of Lift Our Voices Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky spoke at a virtual event held by the American University Women & Politics Institute on Feb. 2, discussing changing the system of workplace nondisclosure agreements and forced arbitration clauses. 

The event, which is a part of the “Women on Wednesdays” series, was moderated by Betsy Fischer Martin, the executive director of the Women in Politics Institute.

According to Carlson, forced arbitration clauses force workers to enter a “secret chamber of arbitration” in order to deal with workplace disputes.

“There's no legal precedent being set,” Carlson said during the event. “There's no legal record, there are no appeals, and the company picks the arbitrator for you, which tend to be older white guys who are retired judges and lawyers, not a jury of your peers. And the silence protects the predator. You're no longer going to work at this company. They're going to be able to say whatever the hell they want about you, and … no one will ever know your story.”

In 1991, only two percent of all companies used forced arbitration clauses. By 2024, Carlson said the number will rise to 84 percent.

Lift Our Voices, which was founded in 2019, is committed to getting rid of silencing mechanisms in the workplace, according to Roginsky.

“We want to make sure that [if] you're sexually harassed at work or racially discriminated against, or something toxic happens to you in the workplace, that you are able to talk freely about those experiences,” Roginsky said. “That's the only way that we can hold predators accountable and protect survivors in the workplace and ultimately improve productivity within workplaces.” 

During the event, Carlson discussed how Lift Our Voices is attempting to change the stigma around coming forward in the workplace.

“All the women that I've spoken to over time … they wanted two things: an apology, and they wanted to keep working, that’s it,” she said. “And instead we're pushing all these women out because we immediately react to them being the troublemaker. So what we need are enlightened leaders and companies, which most of them are men. We need them to be enlightened on this, to respect and celebrate people who have the courage to come forward.”

Carlson also discussed HR 4445, or the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021, a bipartisan bill reintroduced to Congress in July.

“The bill essentially would eradicate forced arbitration for harassment and assault and give people a choice about whether or not they want to go to the secret chamber or they want to be able to go to a jury of their peers,” she said. “And I believe that the time is now that we should give people that choice, because talking about this openly is the only way we're going to solve this issue.”

HR 4445 passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, and will now be voted on in the Senate.

According to Carlson, many have realized that this movement is not a “passing fad.”

“I’ll always say that [passing HR 4445] will be my greatest life achievement, when this happens, because it will affect millions of workers,” Carlson said. “And this will be the biggest labor law change arguably in the last 100 years.”

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