A new act will give employees more reason to speak up.
California is set to ban businesses from mandating non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) specifically in settlements with their employees involving cases of sexual harassment. The new Silenced No More Act followed the ban three years ago of NDAs in general and will go into effect on January 1, 202. It is a big win for those who pushed for the ability to speak up about issues like these following the widespread #MeToo movement. The act essentially gives workers in the state the freedom to discuss concerns they have the companies for which they’re employed.
The proposal was co-sponsored by Ifeoma Ozoma, who left her position at Pinterest after voicing concerns about gender and racial discrimination. It is also backed by businesses who support the measure, including the TechEquity Collaborative, which advocates specifically for tech industry employees.
Ozoma said, as a Black woman, she was “pushed aside by managers at Pinterest for some tasks and underpaid.” She felt the need to tell others in a bigger way what she went through so she might ensure other individuals don’t experience the same things Ozoma has partnered with the Whistleblowing International Network, the Signals Network, and Lioness Strategies to implement Tech Worker Handbook resources, which is being funded by the Omidyar Network.
“Deciding to go toe-to-toe with a powerful and well-resourced corporation is difficult for many reasons,” the handbook’s website reads. “Access to information about how to find legal counsel, file a complaint with a governmental organization, work with the media, secure personal information, or ensure physical safety should not be an additional barrier.”
The Silenced No More Act enables workers to speak out about harassment and discrimination without having to worry about compromising their position or losing out on severance packages should they have to leave a hostile work environment. Advocates who backed the act hope it will fuel the fire for further action against racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. They also hope that more employees will feel empowered to speak up about their experiences.
The agreements that previously barred workers from speaking out against unlawful acts in the workplace cannot prevent or restrict workers from disclosing facts related to harassment and discrimination filed against the companies they’ve alleged have engaged in such acts. Silenced No More also prevents settlements from including non-disparagement clauses that are meant to stop people from talking.
Silenced No More comes after the infamous #MeToo movement that started years ago and gained in popularity recently. The movement started as a way for survivors of sexual trauma to speak out. Three years ago, California banned companies from using their NDAs in cases of “sexual harassment, sexual assault or sex discrimination.” Lawmakers felt that confidential deals were allowing companies to maintain internal workplace abuse and discriminative cultures.
The new law covers secrecy in a broader variety of legal cases, including racial discrimination and harassment based on disability. Supporters believe it will ensure companies take responsibility for not offering diverse and inclusive workplaces like many broadcast they do publicly, and specifically, to job candidates. It will help shed light on what actually happens behind the scenes and, hopefully, encourage businesses to make changes if necessary.