A new law in Washington state bans employers from silencing employees about illegal acts in the workplace.
The Silenced No More Act – which passed in the 2022 session – allows workers to file lawsuits for discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wage and hour violations.
It prohibits and nullifies nondisclosure agreements, or NDAs, on these issues – which the state already prohibited in sexual harassment cases.
Kelli Carson, government affairs deputy director with the Washington State Association for Justice, said nondisclosure clauses covering workplace violations are on the rise in contracts people sign at the start of a job.
“The original use of nondisclosure agreements was to protect trade secrets, and that still is in place,” said Carson. “Nothing in this bill affects that. So that’s still allowed. But in recent years, they’ve been increasing incredibly as a condition of employment.”
California has passed a similar law. In Congress earlier this year, a bipartisan effort pushed legislation across the finish line to make it easier for workers to sue employers in cases of sexual harassment.
State Rep. Liz Berry – D-Seattle – was a sponsor of the bill. She said these types of provisions are mostly used by big tech companies.
“Despite the progress we’ve made in recent years, too many workers are still forced to sign NDAs and settlement agreements that silence them,” said Berry. “This bill will allow all survivors of inappropriate or illegal workplace misconduct to share their experiences, if they choose to do so.”
Carson says this law strengthens workers’ rights.
“For a long time, people were always afraid of retaliation,” said Carson. “People didn’t want to speak up and they just wanted to keep their head down and keep their job. And with the Me Too movement, people, I think, are starting to feel a little bit more empowered to say I don’t have to put up with unlawful conduct at work.”
The bill currently is awaiting the governor’s signature.
Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He’s also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser, and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.
The above article was provided by Washington News Service. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its content.
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