Trump administration nominee Brett Kavanaugh faces another sexual harassment scandal

A day after Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation was made official, victims of sexual harassment and assault took the stand at the D.C. Capital Court on Monday to remind the Senate of one of the most…

Trump administration nominee Brett Kavanaugh faces another sexual harassment scandal

A day after Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation was made official, victims of sexual harassment and assault took the stand at the D.C. Capital Court on Monday to remind the Senate of one of the most vexing issues of the Trump era: forced arbitration. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, is currently involved in two cases of forced arbitration, one in the 1980s when he was an attorney and another more recently. In one case, Kavanaugh helped a corporate client force female employees who accused the client of sexual harassment into signing contracts that prevented them from speaking out in court. In the other case, Kavanaugh allegedly did not report alleged sexual harassment by a college classmate while working in the White House in the 1990s.

In October, the Senate voted 52-48 in favor of confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The final vote came after Kavanaugh faced Senate Democrats’ drumbeat of allegation of sexual misconduct. Of the 13 allegations of sexual misconduct lodged against Kavanaugh, 10 of them could be resolved either through private arbitration or through informal resolution through a mutual agreement. In Kavanaugh’s other two cases, both of which involve accusations against him, he is involved in the most recent accusation against him — a 1991 accusation of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford. These two sets of cases present two stark opposing sides of mandatory arbitration: People with grievances against their employers are granted the right to speak out in court; and people against unwanted sexual advances or harassment, are denied the chance to do so. Kavanaugh would have the power to impact these cases both ways if confirmed to the Supreme Court.

In light of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, politicians are beginning to prioritize the importance of sexual harassment and sexual assault victims who are in arbitration, and are seizing on the growing number of cases against Kavanaugh to call for an end to forced arbitration. According to a recent report from the Center for American Progress, “the national rate of forced arbitration has nearly tripled since 2008, from 1.2% to 4.5%. In addition, there has been a dramatic increase in forced arbitration at the state level over the same period.” A Politico article notes that, “the pressure is on: The Senate is set to debate the fate of federal civil rights law in the next session of Congress, and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is scheduled to begin hearings on reforming the American Health Care Act in January.”

In her testimony, 35-year-old Stephanie Clifford, or Stormy Daniels, charged that Kavanaugh had “flat out lied” on national television when he said that he “had never done anything remotely resembling what Ms. Ford describes.” Ms. Clifford began her testimony by recounting her own experience of sexual assault and harassment at the hands of a Supreme Court nominee — a marriage of casting duties and truth. “I am proud to be standing here today, today on my own two feet to tell you that this is true, this happened to me,” she said. She recounted the day her former best friend had an abortion because she was afraid of testifying that Mr. Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her.

Kavanaugh and Ms. Clifford are not the only people employed by the court, nor the only alleged sexual assault victims. Many of them are also forced into arbitration by employers who fear lawsuits. In public, conservatives assert that mandatory arbitration protects women who are victimized, but many of those employees fear the consequences of silence. Many of these victims were themselves sexually assaulted as children and teenagers, and they are now on trial in the courts. Forcing them to sign away their constitutional rights against discrimination is untenable, they argue. “Forced arbitration strips victims of their rights to be heard,” said Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. “Forced arbitration leaves women with nowhere to turn but behind closed doors — and the full weight of corporate power in our courts.”

Kavanaugh is the final shoe to drop in a long series of sexual misconduct and harassment scandals that saw several prominent men fall from powerful positions and lose their reputations. In a country where any celebrity, no matter how powerful, is nonetheless obligated to “maintain the highest standards of integrity and honesty in his personal and professional life,” it would be morally wrong to ignore the victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment who cannot do the same. Hear more from victims of sexual misconduct and forced arbitration here.

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