Your tax dollars at work, folks. Well, technically, just those of us in New Jersey.
Before I tell you about this recent decision, I’ll offer a brief history lesson.
In July 2021, the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill, if passed, would invalidate arbitration agreements that preclude a party from filing a lawsuit in court involving sexual assault or sexual harassment at the election of the party alleging such conduct.
About a year later, the bill garnered enough support in both the House and the Senate to vote it through to President Biden’s desk for his signature. And on March 3 of this year, he signed it.
This is the law. It’s only four pages. In fairness, the font is a little small. So let’s call it six pages.
If you have the fortitude to make it to the end of the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021, you’ll get to Section 3: Applicability. It reads: “This Act, and the amendments made by this Act, shall apply with respect to any dispute or claim that arises or accrues on or after the date of enactment of this Act. Approved March 3, 2022.”
In other words, the law does not cover any sexual harassment claim that precedes March 3, 2022. Consequently, companies can force arbitration of those older sexual harassment claims, provided the employee signed a valid arbitration agreement. So says the statute.
And so says the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, which dismissed the plaintiff’s sexual harassment lawsuit filed on October 2021, about five months before the new law’s enactment.
The court also reaffirmed that the Federal Arbitration Act preempts New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination to permit arbitration of discrimination claims in New Jersey.
Just not sexual harassment or assault since the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 took effect on March 2, 2022.