Shareholders in the home solar panel company Sunrun will vote today on a measure aimed at discouraging the San Francisco-based company from continuing to use a practice that keeps sexual harassment and discrimination complaints confidential.
The practice, known as forced arbitration, is common in corporate America. Research has found that arbitration favors employers, most likely because they benefit from maintaining ongoing relationships with the arbitrators who decide the cases. Employees are typically prohibited from discussing arbitration proceedings with anyone including partners, family, and friends.
The lead filer on today's shareholder resolution at Sunrun is Nia Impact Capital, a women led, California based team of activist investors. In its statement to shareholders, the group claims that arbitration "undermines the establishment of diverse and inclusive workplaces."
The statement also points to specific concerns with Sunrun's workplace culture, citing Glassdoor reviews that describe Sunrun's culture as one of sexual harassment and discrimination including verbal abuse.
The shareholder resolution asks Sunrun's board of directors to oversee the preparation of a public report on the impact of the use of mandatory arbitration on Sunrun’s employees and workplace culture. It's part of a recent wave of shareholder actions aimed at reducing reputational risk at publicly traded companies.
In September 2020, Tesla shareholders voted on a resolution to prepare a report on its use of mandatory arbitration for discrimination and harassment claims.
In April of this year, 49 percent of Goldman Sachs shareholders voted for the company to create and publish a report on how forced arbitration impacts its workforce. The proposal was narrowly defeated, but was interpreted by many to be a sign of changing attitudes about the use of mandatory arbitration in the financial sector.
Over the last three years, over 350 publicly traded companies have gone on the record to say they don’t use the practice of forced arbitration. Prior to 2018, only a handful had made statements to this effect.
The recent shift may have been influenced in part by the 2018 global Google worker walkout. On November 1, 2018 more than 20,000 Google employees participated in a one day strike in response to a bombshell New York Times report about the company’s mishandling of several sexual harassment complaints.
Sunrun’s annual meeting of stockholders will take place today at 8:30AM Pacific. Interested members of the public can attend via an online portal.
What You Can Do
- Attend the public, online version of Sunrun’s annual meeting of stockholders, taking place Thursday, June 3 2021 at 8:30AM Pacific. Interested members of the public can attend the meeting via this online portal. If you're a shareholder, vote to encourage the company to create the impact report on forced arbitration.
- If you're not a Sunrun shareholder, you can still attend the meeting (register as "guest"). You can also encourage the company to end the practice of forced arbitration by simply sending the company a short email email: email@example.com Sample message: "I support Sunrun ending the practice of forced arbitration, which silences victims of sexual harassment and discrimination."