The U.S. Congress has taken a step towards improving transparency in the workplace with the recent enactment of the Speak Out Act. On December 7, 2022, President Joe Biden signed this new law into effect.
The Speak Out Act aims to prevent courts from enforcing any contracts restricting individuals from discussing workplace sexual harassment or assault during a dispute that arose after the contract was made. This decision means that employers cannot use prior agreements to stop employees or independent contractors from disclosing information about current or future claims of sexual harassment or assault.
Pre-dispute Agreements: Employers facing sexual harassment or assault claims may not rely on prior nondisclosure or nondisparagement agreements to silence employees about that conduct.
Post-dispute Agreements: The Speak Out Act does not affect nondisparagement or nondisclosure provisions in agreements entered into after the dispute arose.
Employers must understand that the new law only applies to agreements made "before the dispute arises." Therefore, employers can still enforce nondisclosure or nondisparagement provisions in agreements made to settle a dispute. However, employers should be aware of any state or local laws that may also affect the enforceability of such agreements.
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Speak Out Act, Transparency in the workplace, Nondisclosure agreements, Sexual harassment claims, Contract enforcement prohibition