A proposed law would make it illegal for California employers to force their current and former employees to keep quiet about discrimination and harassment by making them sign nondisclosure agreements, or NDAs. Currently, California law only bans NDAs in situations where workplace sexual assault and harassment have occurred.
The Rankin Law Firm is keeping a close eye on this legislation because our clients are frequently bound by NDAs as part of their settlement agreements.
What Is An NDA?
A nondisclosure agreement is a contract that establishes a confidential relationship between two parties. They are often used by employers who want to prevent disgruntled employees from telling others they were upset about something and the company tried to fix things by paying them a sum of money.
An NDA may prevent the recipient of a legal settlement from telling others how much money they were awarded, what they were upset about, or even revealing the fact that a complaint existed at all.
Rankin Law clients who sue or threaten to sue their employers for discrimination are often asked to sign an NDA as part of their settlement agreement.
Changes In Response To #MeToo
In response to the #MeToo movement, California amended its state law to ban NDAs in cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sex discrimination. Policymakers realized that serial abusers were using NDAs to hide their abuse, and companies were shielding the public and employees from learning about pervasive abuse in their industries.
The hope is that allowing victims to speak up about their experiences, if they choose to do so, will help prevent discrimination and harassment. If bad actors know they risk exposure, they may be less likely to commit illegal acts. If victims know they are not alone, they will be emboldened to stand up and say “no more.”
Additional Changes In The Works
Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), who sponsored the STAND (Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures) Act prohibiting NDAs in cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sex discrimination, now wants to expand the law to cover all types of employment discrimination and harassment.
“SB 331 [the “Silenced No More Act”] will prevent workers from being forced to sign non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements that would limit their ability to speak out about harassment and discrimination in the workplace,” Senator Leyva said. “It is unacceptable for any employer to try to silence a worker because he or she was a victim of any type of harassment or discrimination—whether due to race, sexual orientation, religion, age or any other characteristic. SB 331 will empower survivors to speak out—if they so wish—so they can hold perpetrators accountable and hopefully prevent abusers from continuing to torment and abuse other workers.”
The Road To Your Employment Rights Starts Here
The Rankin Law Firm is closely monitoring this legislation because it has the potential to impact so many of our clients. In the past, it was rare for a workplace discrimination or harassment lawsuit to settle without an NDA attached. That has changed a little bit, but they are still quite popular. Banning them would be a big change.
If you are currently bound by an NDA, or you want to talk about what this legislation would mean if you bring a future lawsuit, our team is ready to answer your questions. Please contact us today to set up a free initial consultation.