June 9, 2021 – SACRAMENTO – On Tuesday, a bill drafted by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) to empower survivors of harassment in the workplace or Discrimination by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Jointly sponsored by the California Employment Lawyers Association, Earthseed, and Equal Rights Advocates, SB 331 would extend current protection from secret settlements to settlement agreements that include all forms of harassment or discrimination. This measure, also known as the “Silenced No More Act”, would extend the prohibition of too broad confidentiality and devaluation clauses in employment contracts to include employees who have to sign such clauses as part of a termination agreement.
“SB 331 will ensure that workers are always able to speak out against harassment or discrimination in the workplace – both to demand accountability and to prevent future abuses by perpetrators,” said Senator Leyva. “California workers should never be forced into agreements that protect the perpetrators and only serve to hurt and disempower survivors. If and when it goes into effect, the Silenced No More Act will empower workers and help stop this unacceptable behavior in workplaces across the state. “
In response to the #MeToo movement, which revealed the significant role secret settlements played in shielding perpetrators from sexually inappropriate behavior and even sexual crimes, Senator Leyva authored and the governor signed SB 820 (2018) – also known as STAND (Stand Together Against Secrecy) Act. This historic law now explicitly prohibits non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sex discrimination unless required by the worker, as it was clear that secret settlements help protect hostile work environments by removing complaints from the Hidden things become public view.
Since secret settlements clearly play as big a role in perpetuating workplace discrimination, harassment and bias based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, etc. as they do in relation to sexual harassment or gender discrimination The Never Silent Act is designed to ensure that those who make these complaints about inappropriate – and even illegal – conduct in the workplace can speak openly about their experiences.
In 2018, California also passed another #MeToo law (SB 1300, Jackson) that made a number of important changes to California’s harassment and discrimination laws. Although confidentiality and non-denigration agreements that prevent employees from disclosing information about illegal activities in the workplace are now banned as a condition of employment under SB 1300, many employers still force employees to sign these types of provisions as part of severance packages when a Employee leaves a job.
Emphasizing the need for SB 331, two Black women recently brought charges of gender and racial discrimination against a company in which “they were underpaid, saw racist comments from their manager and were subject to retaliation”. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/07/03/pinterest-race-bias-black-employees/) While the company initially denied their claims, the women’s stories attracted tremendous media interest and inspired other women to speak openly about their own experiences. The women eventually settled their claims and were protected by the STAND Act, but only for their gender-specific claims. In other words, while they can talk about their experience of gender discrimination, they cannot talk about their experience of racial discrimination. Since harassment or discrimination claims are often intersectional (e.g. based on gender) and Race or age and sexual orientation), SB 331 will resolve a situation where the NDA only covers one aspect of the employee’s experience and entitlement.
SB 331 is now being inducted into the Congregation’s Working and Employment Committee for consideration and is also being served by AFSCME / AFL-CIO, AI Now Institute, Anti-Defamation League, Bayla Ventures, Brandworkers, California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, California Conference supports the Board of Directors of the Amalgamated Transit Union, California Conference of Machinists, California Immigrant Policy Center, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, California State Council of Service Employees International Union / California, California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, California Women’s Law Center, Center for Institutional Courage , California Consumer Attorneys, California Disability Rights, California Engineers and Scientists / IFPTE Local 20 / AFL-CIO, Indivisible CA StateStrong, Legal Assistance at Work, Lift Our Voices, Media Democracy Fund, National Association of Social Workers / California Chapter, National Council of Jewish Women-California, National Labor Law Project, National Women’s Political Caucus of California, People’s Parity Project, Professional and Technical Engineers / IFPTE Local 21, Radical Candor LLC, Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, Techequity Collaborative, The Citizens – Real Facebook Oversight Board, The Force the Issue Project, The Signals Network, The Women’s Foundation of California, Unite Here International Union / AFL-CIO, Utility Workers Union of America, Vaya Consulting LLC, Voices for Progress Education Fund, Western Center on Law & Poverty INC., Whistleblowing International Network, and Work Equity Action Fund.
Source: Senator Connie M. Leyva