Since gaining widespread attention in 2017, the #MeToo movement has dramatically changed how we acknowledge and contend with sexual harassment. The prevalence of this type of misconduct on the job has been a hot-button issue, prompting important changes.
One recent change was Congressional passage of the Speak Out Act.
What is the Speak Out Act?
This new legislation limits the enforceability of non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases.
The Speak Out Act makes it easier for victims of workplace harassment or abuse to openly discuss their experience, even if they signed a non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreement. Previously, victims bound by such agreements could not talk about the harassment they had faced.
An important note is that the law only applies to agreements parties sign before the harassment or abuse takes place. Parties can still include confidentiality clauses in agreements or settlements reached after alleged misconduct occurs.
How it might impact you
If you are an employer, you may want to change the confidentiality provision in your employment agreements to clarify that it doesn’t apply to sexual harassment and abuse claims. Remember that you can continue to use non-disclosure agreements to protect business interests such as trade secrets, and you can still include confidentiality of sexual harassment claims in your severance agreements.
If you are an employee, know that a pre-existing agreement cannot prevent you from speaking out if you face sexual harassment at work. However, an agreement that you sign after experiencing the harassment can limit your ability to discuss it.
Employment laws are changing all the time. No matter which side of an employment agreement you’re on, contact an experienced employment lawyer if you have any questions about what the law allows.