California employees have another new law to protect their rights if they’ve been the victim of harassment or discrimination in the workplace. This month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the “Silenced No More Act.”
The new law, which takes effect next year, allows California employees to speak or write publicly about any type of harassment or discrimination they faced as the member of any protected class regardless of whether or not they signed a non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreement (NDA).
An expansion of the STAND Act
The Silenced No More Act essentially expands the protections of the STAND Act, which was passed and signed into law as a response to the #MeToo movement. It allows employees who have suffered sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination to tell their stories publicly regardless of any NDA they signed. These agreements have been widely used to protect businesses and the predators in their midst –- often allowing these predators to continue to abuse unsuspecting new employees.
Just as the STAND Act essentially put an end to the use of these agreements to silence sexual abuse victims, the Silenced No More Act makes them useless in preventing employees from talking about a workplace in which any kind or illegal discrimination or harassment is occurring.
New law helps employees whose identities span multiple protected classes
One of the new law’s most outspoken advocates, a former manager with Pinterest, talked about the importance of recognizing that many people like her fall into more than one protected category (in her case, a Black woman). She said it was difficult to be able to speak out on one type of abuse and not the other. She and two other women settled a $20 million lawsuit for gender discrimination. NDAs have been common in the tech industry to try to prevent discrimination and harassment accusations (often related to race and/or gender) from going public.
The new law allows more sunlight into toxic workplaces, which should have some disinfecting impact. However, some people at all levels will continue to abuse, harass and discriminate against employees. If you’ve been a victim of this treatment, you may benefit from seeking legal guidance to determine what your rights are.