Over the past few weeks dozens of women have come forward with accounts of sexual harassments or assaults by famed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The allegations shed light on the widespread use of confidential agreement and internal arbitration systems – in Hollywood and other industries – to settle disputes and keep abuses out of the limelight.
Alex Colvin, professor of labor relations, law and history at Cornell University, studies employment arbitration and the impact of legal environments on organizations. He says the rising number of accusations in the Weinstein case dating back decades show the importance of having effective mechanisms for raising complaints of sexual harassment.
“Fears of retribution and negative career consequences keep many victims from bringing complaints forward, so it is essential to put in place strong protections for complainants against retaliation.
“Mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure agreements have kept sexual harassment claims private and out of the media, preventing misdeeds from receiving public scrutiny.
“This issue goes well beyond the entertainment industry with research showing that 56 percent of all nonunion employees are now subject to mandatory arbitration, which keeps sexual harassment and other discrimination claims private with worse outcomes for employees.”