New law may end silencing of mistreated workers

California workers who face discrimination on the job may have recourse to several options for seeking justice. However, it is not always easy to obtain that justice. Many employees, especially those in the tech industry, may sign non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements. This often means they must keep silent about the abuse and discriminatory treatment they suffer on the job. A new law introduced recently in the state senate may put a stop to those kinds of agreements that only benefit an employer.

Non-disclosure agreements prohibit an employee from revealing confidential information about the business, including sensitive details of accusations of discrimination or any resulting settlements. Non-disparagement agreements legally bind the employee to refrain from making any negative comments about the company. Workers — especially contract workers — who face discrimination after signing these agreements often have few choices, including:

  • Violate the non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements and speak up anyway, risking retaliation or even lawsuits
  • Continue working and dealing silently with the discrimination
  • Leave the company and start over at a new job

The proposed law, called “The Silenced No More Act,” will prevent employers from forcing workers to sign such agreements that effectively silence them, often shielding the jobs and reputations of those who perpetrate the abuse. The law covers every class of person protected in California’s discrimination laws. Speaking out about discrimination on the job often brings to light systematic or ongoing discrimination in workplaces. This may have the global effect of making employers less tolerant of discrimination, providing a safe and fair work environment for all employees.