Wednesday, November 23, 2022
On Wednesday, Congress passed bipartisan legislation, the Speak Out Act, which bans the use of nondisclosure agreements in cases of workplace sexual assault and harassment, by a vote of 315 to 109. The bill passed in the Senate in September and is now headed to the Oval Office to be signed into law.***
The Speak Out Act prohibits the use of NDAs between employers and current, former and prospective employees in cases of sexual assault and harassment. It also invalidates existing NDAs in cases that have not yet been filed. The legislation comes on the heels of the passage of a bill that banned mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment and assault cases.
“This is a one-two punch,” Frankel said. “When you think about how many people are subjected to these agreements and how rampant sexual assault and abuse is in this country, these are two incredibly significant new laws that are going to change the culture and force corporations to protect their workers instead of trying to hide the dirty little secrets.***
Imre Szalai, a social justice professor at Loyola University New Orleans, told The 19th this summer when the bill was introduced that arbitration agreements and NDAs were developed in the United States for commercial purposes to handle business-to-business disputes in a more speedy and cost-effective manner. The federal arbitration law was first enacted in 1925, but sometime between the 1970s and 1990s, Szalai said there was a “snowball effect” and these agreements began appearing more broadly in consumer and employment relationships. And now, the U.S. relies on its corporate sector to resolve internal disputes more than any other country in the world.