Last year, New York enacted several pieces of legislation that enhance protections for sexual harassment victims.
One such provision, codified in CPLR 7515, prohibits (with certain exceptions) mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims.
The law provides, in full:
(a) Definitions. As used in this section:
1. The term “employer” shall have the same meaning as provided in subdivision five of section two hundred ninety-two of the executive law.
2. The term “prohibited clause” shall mean any clause or provision in any contract which requires as a condition of the enforcement of the contract or obtaining remedies under the contract that the parties submit to mandatory arbitration to resolve any allegation or claim of an unlawful discriminatory practice of sexual harassment.
3. The term “mandatory arbitration clause” shall mean a term or provision contained in a written contract which requires the parties to such contract to submit any matter thereafter arising under such contract to arbitration prior to the commencement of any legal action to enforce the provisions of such contract and which also further provides language to the effect that the facts found or determination made by the arbitrator or panel of arbitrators in its application to a party alleging an unlawful discriminatory practice based on sexual harassment shall be final and not subject to independent court review.
4. The term “arbitration” shall mean the use of a decision making forum conducted by an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators within the meaning and subject to the provisions of article seventy-five of the civil practice law and rules.
(b) (i) Prohibition. Except where inconsistent with federal law, no written contract, entered into on or after the effective date of this section shall contain a prohibited clause as defined in paragraph two of subdivision (a) of this section.
(ii) Exceptions. Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to impair or prohibit an employer from incorporating a non-prohibited clause or other mandatory arbitration provision within such contract, that the parties agree upon.
(iii) Mandatory arbitration clause null and void. Except where inconsistent with federal law, the provisions of such prohibited clause as defined in paragraph two of subdivision (a) of this section shall be null and void. The inclusion of such clause in a written contract shall not serve to impair the enforceability of any other provision of such contract.
(c) Where there is a conflict between any collective bargaining agreement and this section, such agreement shall be controlling.