SPEAK Out Act Invaliding NDAs in Sexual Harassment Cases Advances in Senate

The SPEAK Out Act (S.4524), which has drawn rare bipartisan and bicameral support, despite being decidedly pro-worker, has passed both the Senate and House. The bill now has landed on President Joe Biden’s desk and is awaiting his signature. 

Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee sponsored the bill. The SPEAK Out Act follows the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, which President Biden signed into law earlier this year. That Act, originally sponsored by Sens. Gillibrand and Graham in 2017, creates federal protection for workers suing their employers over allegations of sexual harassment and assault, and it invalidates employment contract clauses that mandate arbitration in these cases. 

The bill would invalidate nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that keep employees from discussing sexual harassment and assault cases. Modeled after similar laws in California, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York, by removing the NDAs that shield their actions from public knowledge, the law aims to prevent perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault from continuing to harm others. Other states also have enacted laws that restrict the usage of NDAs in similar circumstances. 

These pieces of legislation acknowledge that many employers require employees to sign NDAs and non-disparagement agreements in hiring processes, severance packages, and legal settlements. As a result, employers must be diligent about ensuring that their contracts, agreements, and other documents do not violate these laws on either the state or federal level. NDAs still are permissible and even advisable in other contexts, such as those concerning confidential information, including trade secrets, client lists, and proprietary information. 

The #MeToo movement and the increasing number of state and federal laws concerning sexual harassment and assault in the workplace necessitate that employers have in place updated, robust, and clearly-stated policies that prohibit sexual and gender-based harassment. Proactive steps to prevent and stop sexual harassment and other unlawful harassment in the workplace provide employers with a legal defense against liability. 

HBL has experience in all areas of benefits and employment law, offering a comprehensive solution to all your business benefits and HR/employment needs. We help ensure you are in compliance with the complex requirements of ERISA and the IRS code, as well as those laws that impact you and your employees. Together, we reduce your exposure to potential legal or financial penalties. Learn more by calling 470-571-1007.

The following two tabs change content below.

Hall Benefits Law, LLC

HBL offers employers comprehensive legal guidance on benefits in mergers and acquisitions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), executive compensation, health and welfare benefits, healthcare reform, and retirement plans. We counsel a wide spectrum of clients including small, mid-sized, and large companies, 401(k) investment advisors, health insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, and HR consultants, just to name a few. HBL is passionate about advising clients, and we are dedicated to our mission: to provide comprehensive, personalized, and practical ERISA and benefits legal solutions that exceed client expectations.

Latest posts by Hall Benefits Law, LLC (see all)