Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson speaks out against Missouri tort reform bills

Two bills currently wending their way through the Missouri Senate seek to roll back longstanding protections for employees in Missouri.

One, SB 43, seeks to amend the Missouri Human Rights Act in a way that makes it more difficult for employees to prove claims of discrimination and harassment. It would also cap whistleblower damages. The other, SB 45, makes it harder for employees to challenge the terms of arbitration agreements signed with their employers. 

As Bert Braud, a plaintiffs’ attorney with the Popham Law Firm, said in our recent story on these bills: “If you’ve got a company that’s being sued over and over and over again for sexual harassment, and each dispute ends up in arbitration, the public will never know that company is a bad actor.”

That sounds an awful lot like Fox News these days. A cascade of lawsuits publicized over the last few years paint a picture of a workplace rife with top-down sexual harassment. This weekend, it was reported that Fox has settled lawsuits amounting to at least $13 million with women who’ve accused Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment. And last year, former Fox chairman Roger Ailes was forced out after multiple women at Fox accused him of unwanted sexual advances

One of those women was Gretchen Carlson. She later settled her lawsuit with Fox for $20 million. These days, she’s crusading against laws that keep women like her silent. Today, she issued a statement on SB 43 and SB 45, urging legislators to oppose the bills. 

“This combination of bills would trap victims of harassment or discrimination in the process of secret arbitration and allow perpetrators to continue preying on employees in the workplace,” Carlson says. “Mandatory arbitration further victimizes victims, silenced by employers who force employees into a secret corporate system called arbitration. By forcing victims to be silent about illegal and abusive behavior which causes them much pain, in many cases the employer is able to leave the abusers in the workplace to harass again.”

She continues: “Employers are insisting that employees give up their rights in order to have that job. Add to that — many people have no idea they even have an arbitration clause in their employment contract. The arbitration process, often argued to be cheaper and quicker for employees, instead silences victims of harassment and discrimination who may have come forward if they knew they weren’t alone.”

Here’s video of Carlson and Sen. Al Franken discussing why arbitration clauses are unfair: 

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