Microsoft announced Tuesday that it will no longer require employees to settle sexual harassment claims privately. The decision comes after a year of revelations about inappropriate behavior across entertainment, technology, and other industries.
Microsoft is the first major company to scrap the forced arbitration clause, which prevents employees from taking claims to court and requires them to settle cases with a third party. While this process is cheaper for employers, it often comes at the expense of the accuser.
Anti-sexual harassment advocate and former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson said at a press conference earlier this month that forced arbitration stops women from coming forward. Carlson, who helped lawmakers announce legislation that would eliminate forced arbitration clauses from employee agreements, added that women are less likely to win cases in arbitration and receiver smaller settlements compared with trial cases.
Microsoft's chief legal officer and president, Brad Smith, wrote in a blog post that most of the company's staffers did not have forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment. However, Time reported that those clauses were applied to a "small segment" of employees. The company has since voided those clauses, according to Time. What's more, Microsoft used arbitration to settle other disputes and did not say whether that practice would continue.
As the world has been rocked with allegations of sexual harassment and assault throughout major industries, it has become increasingly vital for companies to reevaluate how they handle such claims.