Recently, the Senate voted to ban defense contractors — that is, much of American business — from contractually mandating arbitration of employment discrimination disputes. The bill’s sponsor, Al Franken (D-Minn.), pushed the bill by claiming that arbitration provisions in an employment contract kept Jamie Leigh Jones from suing her alleged rapists. But they didn’t: a federal appeals court ruled the arbitration provisions didn’t apply to Jones’ case, leaving her free to sue in court.
Franken’s amendment to a defense appropriations bill banned contractors from requiring arbitration of employment discrimination disputes and sexual assault cases, including “arbitration” of “any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment.” The language about sexual assault was irrelevant to most employers: Lawsuits against employers for employment discrimination vastly outnumber lawsuits over sexual assault, which are a tiny fraction of all court cases, so the bill’s real purpose was to ban arbitration of discrimination cases, not to do anything for rape victims. Few rapes occur in the workplace, as opposed to private settings like homes; and even rapes that do occur in the workplace often fall outside the scope of arbitration clauses. (Arbitration does not, of course, prevent criminal prosecution.)
Liberal trial lawyers have long objected to Supreme Court decisions like its 7-to-2 Gilmer decision upholding contractual provisions that require binding arbitration of employment discrimination cases, even though arbitrators often rule in favor of employees and consumers, and award them substantial monetary damages (although they do permit plaintiffs less discovery than courts do; on the other hand, arbitration typically results in “lower litigation costs and expenses“). Franken’s amendment largely fulfills their fantasy of banning arbitration in discrimination cases.
Although Franken’s amendment has a big effect on discrimination cases — and no effect at all on most rape cases — it has been falsely described ever since as an “anti-rape amendment,” and the 30 senators who voted against the amendment have been depicted ever since by liberal sites such as Huffington Post as the “Republicans for Rape“ — even though the Defense Department opposed Franken’s amendment, and even though Senators like Bob Corker said they might have voted for the amendment had it merely covered rape and violence claims, rather than a vast array of unrelated employment disputes.
Jon Stewart, for example, depicted the amendment as being all about rape, asking his viewers “How is ANYONE against this?” and suggesting that only a nut or a misogynist could do so. (This is the same Jon Stewart who selectively edits taped interviews to make conservatives look stupid, or make them appear to say the opposite of what they actually said). But the liberal Stewart has aimed this criticism only at conservative lawmakers, not at the Obama Defense Department (or the liberal Supreme Court justices who voted with their conservative colleagues to allow all employment disputes, including those involving sexual assault, to be governed by contractual arbitration provisions in the Gilmer case). So has Huffington Post, whose first inflammatory article on the vote generated over 2000 comments, many of them angry and vituperative. The inflammatory coverage has resulted in Senators who voted against the amendment receiving hate mail and angry and hateful messages.
Liberal journalists and bloggers complain a lot about the use of so-called “wedge issues,” but they themselves are the ones who typically use inflammatory wedge issues, as the Franken amendment illustrates.
Another example is the many false claims made by liberal journalists and Obama about the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear, a subject I addressed at length here. In the Ledbetter case, the press claimed that the Supreme Court had created a rigid 180 day deadline for suing over pay discrimination — when in fact it did no such thing.
By the way, studies show that Jon Stewart’s viewers aren’t any smarter than Bill O’Reilly’s — contrary to what liberal journalists believe.