California "Silenced No More" act seeks to ban corporate gag orders used against harassment victims

The bill would expand existing protections to cover racial and other harassment

Last month, California state Senator Connie Leyva introduced the "Silenced No More" act (SB331), which, if it passes, will expand an existing ban on the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to prevent victims from speaking out about workplace discrimination and harassment. The bill is supported by gender justice nonprofit Equal Rights Advocates and by the California Employment Lawyers Association. The law draws on the experiences of, and advocacy from, former Google and Pinterest employee Ifeoma Ozoma, who resigned from Pinterest in 2020 and went public with her story of racial discrimination.

California law already prevents the use of NDAs to prevent workers from speaking out about sexual harassment and sexual assault. SB331 would expand these protections to cover any act of "workplace harassment or discrimination".

Several news publications wrote stories about the bill when its introduction was announced in early February - I'll include a few URLs below, with some extracts from Senator Leyva's press release and from the article in The Verge. The bill in its present form appears to only make the expanded protections retroactive to January 2019, however a lot of edits can happen to a bill as it works its way through the California legislative process. You can read the text of the bill and track its progress at its page on California Leginfo.

Techcrunch article:
https://techcrunch.com/2021/02/08/silenced-no-more-act-seeks-to-ban-use-of-ndas-in-situations-involving-harassment-or-discrimination/
"Silenced No More Act seeks to ban use of NDAs in situations involving harassment or discrimination"

San Jose Mercury News article:
https://www.mercurynews.com/2021/02/10/a-proposed-law-in-california-seeks-to-ban-ndas-that-prevent-workers-from-speaking-up-about-discrimination-and-abuse/
"A proposed law in California seeks to ban NDAs that prevent workers from speaking up about discrimination and abuse"

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Press release from Senator Leyva's office:
https://sd20.senate.ca.gov/news/2021-02-08-senator-leyva-introduces-%E2%80%9Csilenced-no-more-act%E2%80%9D

Senator Leyva Introduces the “Silenced No More Act”
SB 331 Empowers Victims of Any Type of Workplace Harassment or Discrimination to Speak Out

Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) introduced legislation earlier today that would expand current protections against secret settlements to now cover settlement agreements involving all forms of harassment or discrimination. SB 331 would also expand the prohibition on overly broad confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses in employment agreements to cover workers who are required to sign these types of clauses as part of a severance agreement...

“SB 331 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.”...

“My experience facing workplace discrimination, then publically demanding accountability, speaks to the importance of this legislation for all Californians. I'm proud to support this bill and the intersectional protections it would bring to tens of millions of workers,” said former Pinterest employee Ifeoma Ozoma…

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The Verge article:
https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/8/22272779/silenced-no-more-act-california-nda-employees-workplace-harassment

New California law would exempt employees who speak out about discrimination from NDAs

On Monday, California state Senator Connie Leyva introduced the Silenced No More Act, a bill that advocates say will protect employees who speak out about discrimination at work, even if they’ve signed nondisclosure agreements...

If successful, the law would have a dramatic impact on the tech industry, which is famous for making workers sign strict nondisclosure agreements. These NDAs can include broad non-disparagement clauses which prevent employees from speaking out. The rule is especially hard for contract workers who often lack the protections and resources of full-time employees. In recent years, contractors at Facebook and Google have chosen to speak out anyway — and risked retaliation as a result...

“NDAs are inherently harmful because they prevent workers from speaking out against abuses in the workplace,” said Jessica Stender, senior counsel for workplace justice and public policy at Equal Rights Advocates. “We are proud to cosponsor SB 331, which will prohibit forced NDAs related to all forms of discrimination—including overdue race discrimination protections—to ensure that workers are not silenced and discrimination is not swept under the rug.”

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