California has experienced an influx of legislation designed to protect employees who enter separation and settlement agreements with employers and those facing nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) at work. As an employee in the Golden State, you should familiarize yourself with new and amended laws impacting your workplace.
One such law is Senate Bill 331, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on October 7, 2021. The "Silenced No More Act" (SB 331) took effect on January 1, 2022, expanding the provisions of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which further prevents and restricts disclosure of certain facts in settlement agreements covering complaints of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. In addition, SB 331 also amends and expands upon California's Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures Act (STAND or SB 820) of 2018. It's no secret that California has always been at the forefront of cultivating laws to ensure all employees are protected at work. But why did these laws manifest and are they beneficial for employees?
Current legislation concerning employer separation and settlement agreements originated from the grassroots "#MeToo" movement, which led to a widescale evaluation of workplace and employee policies. #MeToo brought awareness and amplified the voices of survivors facing sexual harassment, abuse, assault, and misconduct in the workplace. As a result of the movement, California's SB 820 banned confidentiality provisions in instances of harassment, discrimination, and assault in the workplace based on sex. The law did not address many other protected characteristics (including race, religion, disability, and medical conditions). Those who signed NDAs could voice claims based on sex but not race or other characteristics, creating a huge disparity.
Protected Characteristics, Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation:
Shielding Your Identity:
Right to an Attorney:
Financial Incentives and Unlawful Requirements:
Agreements and Disclosure of Unlawful Acts:
Note: A negotiated agreement to satisfy an employee's underlying complaint filed in court, before an administrative agency, in arbitration, or through an employer's internal complaint procedure by an employee is not subject to SB 331's requirements.
Before signing an employer’s separation or settlement agreement for employees or an NDA, you should always consult with an experienced employment lawyer. Additionally, you can seek justice if you are the victim of or witnessed an unlawful act such as sexual or workplace harassment, assault, racism, or other discrimination at your present or former workplace. An employer cannot pressure you into signing a confidentiality agreement, NDA, severance agreement, or settlement agreement. If any of these violations have happened to you, please contact our offices for a free consultation with a knowledgeable and proficient attorney.