On Wednesday night, Samantha Bee dedicated a segment to the silencing tactic of forced arbitration in workplace sexual harassment cases. In it, she interviews Gretchen Carlson, who Bee says “graciously sat down with me even though we made fun of her for 12 straight years at my previous gig.”
Carlson starts by saying she can’t actually say what happened to her, though she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against former (and deceased) Fox News executive Roger Ailes. When Bee asks why, Carlson replies, “In society, we’ve chosen two ways to resolve sexual harassment cases, and they’re both secret. One is settlements, where the women can never tell you what happened. And the other is forced arbitration, which is a secret chamber, where the women can never tell you what happened.”
Most work contracts feature forced arbitration clauses, which put an employee with a complaint against a company in a bind; they must present those complaints to an “arbiter,” a third party hired by the company to judge its merit. In most cases, they do not side with the employee. Carlson side-stepped this process by suing Ailes directly, but the settlement still limits what she can say about what happened.
Carlson is pushing for non-partisan legislation that will end arbitration clauses, seeing them as a big part of why all the stories of sexual harassment in the workplace have gone unheard for so long.
“We’ve been fooling our culture into thinking we had solved this problem since Anita Hill because we don’t hear about these stories, but the reason we don’t hear about these stories is because they’re going to one of two secret chambers,” she explained.
Bee signs off with a call for women to work on these issues together, regardless of politics.
“At this time of unprecedented discord, I think what will save the world is women coming together across party lines because they don’t want to look at hamburger dick anymore,” she says.