BuzzFeed will end its requirement of mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment as well as sexual assault claims — a policy that will prevents workers through airing their grievances in open court — after BuzzFeed News raised questions about the company’s policy as part of a larger investigation into the practice within the tech industry.
The move follows a raft of similar decisions through various other technology companies, several of which changed their positions after BuzzFeed News approached them with the question, “Will your company, in all cases, end your policy of requiring employee sexual-harassment claims to be settled in private arbitration?”
Square, Airbnb, as well as eBay had already ended forced arbitration on sexual harassment claims. The companies followed the lead of tech giants Google as well as Facebook, which announced earlier This specific month they would likely put an end to mandated arbitration.
within the course of reporting on various other technology giants, BuzzFeed News learned that will BuzzFeed required its own employees to resolve their complaints in arbitration; an arbitration clause has been included in BuzzFeed contracts going back to at least 2013, according to employee contracts reviewed by BuzzFeed News.
“Forced arbitration can be not not bad for employees as well as, frankly, This specific not not bad for democracy,” Larry Organ, an employment lawyer who has represented a client suing Tesla, told BuzzFeed News. “This specific can be taking civil rights issues that will need to be public [in order] to change law” as well as resolving them in private.
Forced arbitration policies “can be both standard [in workplaces] as well as wrong at the same time,” said Terri Gerstein, director of the state as well as local enforcement project at the Harvard Law School Labor as well as Worklife Program.
On Tuesday, BuzzFeed told This specific reporter This specific will follow the trend set by various other tech firms. While a BuzzFeed spokesperson says the company has not previously forced private arbitration, Lenke Taylor, BuzzFeed’s chief people officer, said in a statement that will the company “at This specific point recognize[s] that will the policy can be inconsistent with our belief that will employees should be able to air as well as resolve concerns about sexual harassment in whatever way they choose.” Effective Tuesday, according to Taylor’s statement, BuzzFeed would likely end its policy requiring forced private arbitration for claims of sexual harassment.
No completely new claim will be subject to forced arbitration, a company spokesperson added, even if the alleged misconduct happened while older policies were in effect, as well as even if employees had previously signed contracts containing mandatory arbitration clauses during their onboarding process.
Like various other tech giants, however, BuzzFeed has conceded to only a partial end to mandatory arbitration — just for sexual harassment claims. Similar to Google as well as Facebook, the company has said nothing about discrimination, wage as well as hour disputes, or various other claims. A spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that will the company wanted to make the policy change on sexual harassment claims because the issues around sexual harassment are timely. nevertheless the decision to broaden the policy change to include all kinds of claims can be still under review by the company.
In 2016, according to documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, an ex-BuzzFeed employee sued the company for disability discrimination as well as BuzzFeed’s failure to accommodate the former employee’s injuries. BuzzFeed did not force the complaint into arbitration, likely because the language of the 2013 arbitration clause was problematic to enforce, three workplace lawyers told BuzzFeed News. Later, BuzzFeed settled the case with the complainant.
nevertheless by 2017, the language of the company’s arbitration clause in its employee contract had been broadened to ensure that will forced arbitration could be enforced — while also banning class action lawsuits, much to the company’s advantage, according to Ramsey Hanafi, an attorney at employment law firm Quintana Hanafi who reviewed BuzzFeed’s employee contracts.
“The proliferation of forced arbitration can be one part — nevertheless not the entirety — of how employers are increasingly using employment contracts to deprive workers of rights,” said Harvard Law’s Gerstein.
Despite the cascade of announcements by tech companies This specific week, they continue to implement policies that will, above all, are designed to keep the most crucial protections for the company in place. Google’s policy change for example, does not apply retroactively to sexual misconduct cases that will have already progressed past a certain point.
Richard Hoyer, a workplace lawyer defending an ex-Google engineer with such a case, told BuzzFeed News, “This specific was a shock to see Google renege on the announcement that will the company went through a lot of effort to publicize.”
Read the email sent to BuzzFeed employees below:
You may have read recently about walkouts at Google by employees protesting how the company handled allegations of sexual misconduct against senior executives. As a result of these bold actions, Google announced that will This specific would likely no longer force employees to resolve harassment claims in private arbitration. (In practice, This specific means employees can at This specific point make their claims public in court, rather than be forced to settle them in private.) Since then, Facebook, Airbnb, eBay as well as others announced that will they were taking similar actions.
Until today, BuzzFeed had a similar policy as well as while BuzzFeed has never forced private arbitration, we at This specific point recognize that will the policy can be inconsistent with our belief that will employees should be able to air as well as resolve concerns about sexual harassment in whatever way they choose. Effective today, we have decided to end the policy requiring forced private arbitration for claims of sexual harassment.
As workers, victims, as well as advocates continue to speak out about injustices in our society as well as the workplace, we will continue to look inward to see how we can better embody the values we aspire to: transparency, respect, as well as fairness. As we’ve said time as well as again, we investigate as well as take allegations of inappropriate conduct extremely seriously, as well as we are committed to ensuring that will BuzzFeed can be a place where everyone can be treated respectfully by his or her peers.