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Illustration by Taylor Callery

The case before U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh Jr. was not unlike others he’d seen before. A woman alleged sexual harassment in the workplace so severe she had been forced to quit her job. Her former employer, a global talent agency called MarketSource, was arguing that the  whole dispute ought to be in front of an arbitrator—not in a public courtroom.

McHugh, sitting in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, left no doubt about his misgivings, writing “there is legitimate cause for concern when a parallel system of dispute resolution supplants the courts.” But in the face of a growing constellation of U.S. Supreme Court decisions favoring arbitration contracts, the judge concluded in a decision last November that he had little choice but to side with the company.

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