While Biden’s signature on the long-overdue Respect for Marriage Act has been grabbing headlines, another landmark law—one that the president signed the week before with far less fanfare—will change the lives of thousands of sexual assault and harassment survivors nationwide.
The bipartisan Speak Out Act bars the use of non-disclosure agreements in the workplace pertaining to sexual misconduct, assault, and harassment. Not only are such NDAs no longer allowed, but the law also renders older NDAs unenforceable.
Why is This New Law Important?
NDAs regarding sexual misconduct silence victims and protect predators. Powerful institutions or corporations and perpetrators often manipulate victims into signing NDAs, saying it’s “just a formality”. Victims are often not given an opportunity to fully read the NDA or consult with an attorney before signing. In reality, the NDAs mean victims are forced into legal silence and not permitted to publicly discuss their abuse or name their abuser. In fact, Harvey Weinstein, the now-disgraced Hollywood producer (who is currently serving a 23 year sentence for sexual assault), was allowed to prey on women for decades because his employees and survivors were hamstrung by the now-illegal NDAs.
How Will this Law Help Employees?
Anyone in the workplace—no matter one’s gender, identity, race, religion, or age—can be vulnerable to sexual misconduct by another employee, customer, or supervisor. This new law now allows any victim to come forward and speak out, without running the risk of losing a job, income, or possible settlements.
How Does this Law Stop Sexual Misconduct in the Workplace?
Sexual predators in the workplace thrive on two things: power and silence. Even if a predator loses a job in one place, he or she is able to find new work immediately if the victims are forced into signing NDAs. When survivors are empowered to speak out and expose abuse, predators are put on alert that their behavior not acceptable and their wrongdoing will not be kept secret.
If you are asked to sign an NDA regarding sexual misconduct, or your employer is attempting to enforce an old NDA that protects a predator, speak out and get help if you need it. Other potential victims are relying on you.