Wells Fargo says it will no longer force its employees to settle sexual harassment disputes in arbitration instead of a public court.
Forced arbitration rules help businesses sweep disputes, including sexual harassment complaints from workers, under the rug. The practice is widespread, although workers at tech giants such as Microsoft and Google have successfully fought back against such rules over the past few years. Now the fight is moving into new territory.
“We believe that this is the appropriate change to make at this time for our employees,” Wells Fargo’s HR boss, David Galloreese, said in a blog post on the company’s website today, effectively noting that the update comes at a convenient time. “The treatment of sexual harassment claims has become an increasingly prominent issue across industries.”
The measures Wells Fargo is taking today are limited in scope—the company is not doing away with forced arbitration entirely, despite how bad such policies can be for workers—but it’s possible Wells Fargo’s announcement will lead the way for other giants in the banking world. Forced arbitration rules can also be used to limit consumers’ rights, and in fact those types of clauses appear to be rising at companies such as JPMorgan Chase, which last year reintroduced a forced-arbitration clause for some cardholders.
Wells Fargo’s new policy “applies to future harassment claims,” according to Bloomberg. Fast Company has reached out to Wells Fargo to ask why the company is choosing to enforce its old policy for claims made before the change.