Until a few years ago, employees who settled sexual harassment and abuse complaints with an employer were often required to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that prohibited them from talking publicly about what they’d suffered. If they violated the NDA, they could be sued for potentially millions of dollars. Agreements like this protected sexual predators and kept the public unaware of the toxic workplaces behind some well-known companies.
As the #MeToo movement gained momentum several years ago, California enacted the Stand Together Against Nondisclosure (STAND) Act. It prohibited the use of NDAs to keep those who had suffered sexual harassment or abuse from telling their stories.
The new law extends protection to victims of discrimination
Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law that broadens the prohibition on NDAs to include any kind of discriminatory harassment and abuse as well as sexual. Lawmakers and advocates behind the Silenced No More Act recognized that many California employees who suffer sexual harassment also suffer discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability other protected categories.
One advocate for the new law noted that in her own case, it was difficult for her to be public about the sexual harassment she experienced while remaining silent on the racial aspect of her harassment. Now, starting next year, California employees can’t be required to sign away their right to go public about their experience with discrimination or sexual harassment to settle their claim.
California is leading the way in limiting the kinds of things NDAs can be used for. However, it’s always wise to seek legal guidance before signing anything your employer gives you that could limit your rights to talk about your own experience and potentially keep others from suffering what you did.