May 9, 2021 – SACRAMENTO – To empower survivors of harassment or discrimination in the workplace, the California Senate passed away last Thursday major laws drafted by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that would extend current protection from secret settlements to settlement agreements that include all forms of harassment or discrimination. Senate Bill 331, also known as the “Silenced No More Act,” would extend the prohibition of overly broad confidentiality and non-degradation clauses in employment contracts to employees who are required to sign these types of clauses as part of a severance pay agreement.
“SB 331 is important piece of legislation that protects the right of California workers to speak up, if they so choose, if they experience harassment or discrimination in the workplace,” said Senator Leyva. “It is unacceptable for workers to be forced to remain silent after this cruel behavior, especially when mandatory silence is only to maintain the culture of secrecy that allows abusers to continue torturing and abusing other workers. The Silenced No More Act will empower survivors and help hold perpetrators accountable for their intolerable acts. “
In response to the #MeToo movement, which revealed the significant role secret settlements played in shielding offenders 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) law. This historic law now explicitly forbids nondisclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sex discrimination unless required by the worker, as it was clear that secret settlements help preserve hostile work environments by hiding complaints from public view .
Because secret settlements clearly play as important a role in maintaining discrimination, harassment and bias in the workplace based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, etc. as they do in relation to sexual harassment or gender discrimination The Silenced No More Act is designed to ensure that those who make these complaints about inappropriate – and even illegal – behavior 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 crucial changes to California’s anti-harassment and discrimination laws. Although confidentiality and non-degrading agreements that prevent workers from disclosing information about illegal activities in the workplace are banned as a condition of employment under SB 1300, many employers still force workers to sign these types of provisions as part of severance pay packages when a worker leaves a job.
Two black women, highlighting the need for SB 331, recently made claims of gender and racial discrimination against a company where “they were underpaid, subjected to racist comments from their manager and were subject to retaliation”. 1 While the company initially rejected their claims, the women denied this. Stories generated a lot of 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. gender-specific) 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 jointly sponsored by the California Employment Lawyers Association, Earthseed and Equal Rights Advocates, and the AI Now Institute, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the Anti-Defamation League, Bayla Ventures, Brandworkers, and the California Conference of Machinists supported. California Conference of Amalgamated Transit Union, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, California Women’s Rights Center, California Consumer Advocates, California Disability Rights, California Engineers and Scientists / IFPTE / Local 20 / AFL-CIO, Force das Problem, Indivisible California: StateStrong, Legal Assistance at Work, Lift Our Voices, National Association of Social Workers / California Chapter, National Council of Jewish Women in California, National Labor Law Project, Professional and Technical Engineers / IFPTE / Local 21 / AFL -CIO, Radical Candor LLC, Santa Barbara Political Women Committee, SEIU, California, TechEqui ty Collaborative, Center for Institutional Courage, People’s Parity Project, Real Facebook Oversight Board, UNITE HERE / AFL-CIO, Utility Workers Union of America, Vaya Consulting LLC , Western center for Law and Poverty, Whistleblower International Network, Women’s Foundation California, and Work Equity. The “Silenced No More Act” is now being submitted to the California State Assembly for review.
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