Microsoft is eliminating forced arbitration agreements with employees who make sexual harassment claims, the New York Times reported. Such agreements let companies keep harassment and discrimination claims out of court and away from public scrutiny. Confidentiality clauses, which are typically attached to such arbitration agreements, are then used to keep harassment claims under wraps, which can allow serial harassers to continue their abuse for years.
Microsoft’s ban of forced arbitration clauses is mostly symbolic, because, as the Times points out, only a few hundred senior employees–out of Microsoft’s 125,000 worldwide–were subject to the arbitration clauses. However, it positions Microsoft as a leader in efforts to make the reporting and resolution of sexual harassment cases in corporate environments more transparent. (Not that Microsoft is above the fray. Last week, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft required an intern who accused another intern of sexually assaulting her outside of work, to continue working together while it investigated the claims.)
Microsoft also announced its support of a bill making its way through the U.S. Senate that would make forced arbitration agreements in sexual harassment unenforceable under federal law.