Important social movements like Me Too and Time’s Up have helped bring attention to the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. Not only have employees been able to share their stories like never before, but state legislatures have responded, and employees are now protected by new and improved laws that target specific problems in the reporting process. California’s new SB 331 is one such law. California law has been amended to prohibit nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) as part of sexual harassment settlement agreements. Now, SB 331 expands these protections to cases involving other types of harassment and discrimination.
Nondisclosure agreements have come under heavy scrutiny in recent years. Too often, these provisions are used to silence employees and prevent them from telling the truth publicly about what they have endured. The silence allows companies to cover up systemic problems. Without any transparency, they are able to silence other employees and keep problems quiet. California law was quickly amended to ensure that NDAs could not be used to silence employees who suffer sexual harassment. Unfortunately, those who experience other types of unlawful workplace conduct were left without that legal protection.
SB 331 extends the protections against NDAs to employees who experience any type of discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Employees who undergo racial harassment, disability discrimination, and other prohibited conduct can also settle their claims without being silenced. The bill was signed into law by Governor Newsom in October 2021. The new law covers all settlement agreements on January 1, 2022, and later.
The bill also prohibits certain NDAs as part of a severance agreement. Confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses can be struck down by a court when they are too broad, such as when they prohibit an employee from speaking about an unlawful termination or harassment in the workplace. This is an important protection for California workers. Because employees tend to have far less bargaining power than their employers, many workers are pressured into silence through all sorts of contracts related to their employment.
Discrimination and harassment in the workplace have been against the law for decades. In spite of this, these behaviors persist, and many California workers are harmed by this unlawful conduct every year. It is important to hold employers accountable for unlawful behaviors in their workplaces. It is also important that employees not be silenced. Only by telling the truth can these problems be addressed. Now, California law protects employees from being silenced.
If you have felt the effects of discrimination or harassment in the workplace, you have the right to get legal advice from your own attorney. The company’s HR and legal departments exist to protect the company’s interests. Only a lawyer who is on your side can advise you of your legal rights – and the best way to protect yourself from future harm in the workplace. The experienced harassment and discrimination lawyers at Minnis & Smallets are here to help protect California workers. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with an experienced Bay Area employment law attorney.
If you are looking for advice or representation, please contact us today using the form below and we will promptly respond to your inquiry.
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