Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) applauded the passage of the Speak Out Act in the House of Representatives. The Speak Out Act is a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would prohibit predispute non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in instances of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Senator Gillibrand leads this bill in the Senate, which passed by unanimous consent on September 29, 2022. The House companion bill is led by Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Ken Buck (R-CO) and passed by a vote of 315-109.
“Today, the House voted to strengthen workplace protections and guard against the use of predispute NDAs in sexual harassment and sexual assault cases, which are often used to coerce silence,” said the senators. “Earlier this year, we voided forced arbitration agreements for sexual assault and sexual harassment, and the Speak Out Act is the important next step in our mission to reform our workplaces for the better. I urge President Biden to sign this bill into law expeditiously so we can fix this broken system and help end the days of institutional protection for perpetrators.”
Under current law, organizations can use NDAs to prevent survivors of sexual harassment or assault from speaking publicly about these incidents. The threat of legal retaliation creates and enables a culture of silence that allows predators to continue their illegal conduct, while their victims are forced out of their careers and denied justice.
The Speak Out Act would:
- Prohibit the applicability of predispute NDAs between employers and current, former, and prospective employees, as well as independent contractors, in cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment;
- Prohibit the applicability of predispute NDAs between providers of goods and services and consumers in cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment; and
- Allow states to enact additional protections beyond the Speak Out Act’s protections—setting a floor, not a ceiling, for restricting NDA enforceability.