In 2017, the #MeToo movement forced the country to confront an uncomfortable truth about how women are treated in the workplace. Women across the country began to speak out about being sexually harassed and assaulted at work. This epidemic has remained secret in large part because forced arbitration clauses hidden in the fine print of employment contracts prevent workers from holding their harassers and employers publicly accountable when they create a hostile work environment. Such forced arbitration clauses were brought into the spotlight when former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson bravely shared her story of sexual harassment. In sharing her story, Carlson prompted other women to come forward and share their experiences – uncovering a corporate culture rife with rampant sexual harassment.
The sexual harassment scandal at Fox News is just one example highlighted in AAJ’s most recent report, Worst Corporate Conduct of 2017. The report outlines multiple examples of corporations engaging in cover ups and frauds that affected millions of Americans in 2017: from Equifax profiting off its massive data breach, to Takata replacing its deadly airbags with more deadly airbags, to Wells Fargo’s seemingly never-ending series of schemes to rip off its customers.
When corporations put profits before safety and customer and employee welfare, and the regulatory system proves unable to force change, the civil justice system is the last line of defense to protect consumers. Lawsuits have proven to be the most effective, and sometimes the only, mechanism for deterring negligent behavior and rooting out corporate misconduct.