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What Does the Silenced No More Act Mean for Workers in CA?

Asian woman is silenced with adhesive tape across her mouth

Sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace are not vestiges of the past. Workplace discrimination is a very real problem in modern workplaces around the country, in California and elsewhere. California lawmakers have taken a number of steps in recent years to promote worker rights and worker safety, including by limiting the power of employers to silence aggrieved employees. Continue reading to learn about the Silenced No More Act, a 2021 law aimed at eliminating harassment and discrimination in California workplaces. If you have been subjected to harassment or discrimination of any kind at your job, call an experienced Riverside workplace discrimination and harassment attorney for advice and representation.

What is the Silenced No More Act?

For years, workers who faced harassment or discrimination and managed to muster the courage to take a stand were ultimately faced with a choice: Get the compensation you deserve for the harm you have suffered, or let the public (and other workers who may be similarly harmed) know what your company did. The choice manifested at the time of settlement. A worker would suffer harassment or discrimination, sue the company, and then be offered a settlement award in exchange for a contractual agreement not to speak about the allegations or the case. Employers kept their reputations intact and were free to continue harassing or discriminating against other workers.

In fact, many workers weren’t even given the choice at the time of settlement. Companies often require employees to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) at the time they are hired as a condition of employment. Until recently, those NDAs included non-disclosure of discrimination or harassment allegations. In 2018, amid the #MeToo movement, California lawmakers passed a law that protected the ability of workers bound by such NDAs to speak about sexual misconduct and gender discrimination.

The Silenced No More Act continues that trend. Effective as of January 1, 2021, the law prevents companies from enforcing any agreements that would prevent employees from discussing workplace discrimination, harassment, or abuse. The Act specifically targets severance agreements demanding silence in exchange for severance benefits as well as litigation settlement agreements.

The 2018 Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures (STAND) Act prohibited NDAs from limiting employee disclosure of facts relating to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination. The Silenced No More Act expands the protections to victims of other forms of harassment and discrimination, protecting employees who have experienced discrimination based on their age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, or pregnancy.

How the Silenced No More Act Protects Workers

Under the terms of the new law, parties to a settlement agreement cannot prevent or restrict an individual from discussing underlying factual information pertaining to claims of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. Employers are prohibited from entering into severance agreements that prevent disclosure of unlawful workplace conduct unless the agreement is made pursuant to a settlement and the worker is given ample opportunity to have the agreement reviewed by an attorney. Moreover, employers cannot require employees to sign non-disparagement agreements that would prevent them from reporting unlawful conduct in the workplace.

The new law applies to agreements made as of 2022. It does not strip previous NDAs of their enforceability.

Call a Zealous Labor Law Attorney for Help Dealing With Workplace Harassment

For help protecting yourself and recovering compensation after experiencing sexual harassment, discrimination, or a hostile work environment in Southern California, call Ochoa & Calderón to discuss your case with a dedicated, professional California labor and employment attorney. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.

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