- Facebook will end mandatory arbitration for settling sexual harassment claims, allowing accusers to take their cases to court instead, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported. The social media giant is on a short list of companies that eliminated the requirement, making the announcement just one day after Google made a similar policy change.
- Lori Goler, Facebook's vice president of people, told the Journal that the company moved quickly to set the policies in place to meet employees' expectations. "There's no question that we're at a pivotal moment," Goler said. "This is a time when we can be part of taking the next step."
- Facebook also updated its interoffice dating policy, which requires leaders at a director level or above to disclose dating relationships they're having with others at the organization, WSJ said.
Facebook and Google have joined Uber and Microsoft in ending mandatory arbitration as a response to sexual harassment allegations. The policy changes likely come as a response to pressure from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, as well as employee-led initiatives. Google workers, for example, staged a walkout last week, demanding the company change many of its policies, including its stance on arbitration.
Employers may hesitate to nix their arbitration policies; arbitration has long been an important tool for businesses to avoid litigation, and courts have generally approved of such agreements. A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis found that employers could require individual workers to arbitrate disputes, giving up their right to a class or collective court decision. The midyear ruling was seen by many employment law experts as a win for employers.
But John Lewis, a partner in the Cleveland office of Baker & Hostetler, said arbitration can be expensive because employers agree to pay in excess of the regular filing fee, and if there are multiple claims — with some procedures last more than one day — employers could start running up bills upwards of $25,000, not counting legal fees. "You don't want to arbitrate everything," Lewis told HR Dive. "Carefully think through what kind of claims you might have and how it's best to resolve them." He cautioned that arbitration is not an "all or nothing" situation and that people running to arbitration agreements is part of the problem.
As employees continue to voice concerns about how businesses handle misconduct, it's likely more companies will fall in line with Facebook, Google, Uber and Microsoft in reconsidering and possibly ending some forms of mandatory arbitration.