California already banned non-disclosure clauses in private settlement agreements surrounding claims of sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace and certain other situations.
A new law (S.B. 331), dubbed the “Silenced No More Act,” was signed into being by Governor Gavin Newsom on Oct. 7, 2021. It extends the previous ban to non-disclosure agreements that prohibit employees from disclosing any unlawful acts in their places of employment.
What are the basics of the new law?
In essence, the law now forbids employers from using contracts to silence employees about any type of harassment or discrimination at work, whether that harassment or discrimination was sexually-based or not.
When a non-disclosure clause is included in a contract, it also gives employers an affirmative duty to make sure that the agreement includes specific language that clarifies an employee’s right to still speak about anything unlawful that happened.
The new expansion of the law goes into effect for all agreements dated Jan. 1, 2022, or later. This is a huge step forward for victims of workplace mistreatment of many kinds. For too long, companies have relied on non-disclosure agreements to protect their image and brand.
Non-disclosure clauses on severance agreements and settlement agreements also allowed perpetrators of workplace discrimination and other illegal acts to remain “undercover,” so to speak. Now, companies may be forced to reckon with such problematic behavior and negative company cultures.
If you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, discrimination or wrongful termination, you have rights. Learning more about your options can help you make informed decisions about your future.