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 November 19, 2022

Bill to void non-disclosure agreements for sexual misconduct passes House of Representatives

A bill that voids nondisclosure agreements when reporting sexual misconduct passed the House of Representatives Wednesday, the Washington Examiner reported. The Speak Out Act received bipartisan support with a 315-109 vote.

In September, the Senate passed the legislation with a unanimous vote. The next step will be for President Joe Biden to sign the bill, which he's expected to do.

"Workers should not be silenced in the face of workplace sexual harassment and assault, or face retaliation for coming forward to report such abuse," a statement from the White House said. "Transparency is the best way to hold workers accountable."

The law is designed to prohibit employers from using such agreements to silence employees speaking out about workplace "disputes" such as sexual misconduct. However, other complaints, such as race discrimination and wage theft, are not covered under the act.

Moreover, there are problems because what constitutes a dispute is not defined. Also, the law would only apply to agreements signed before qualifying incidents, such as those that are part of the onboarding process.

The bill received partisan support in the House and was led by a mix of Democrats and Republicans, according to Colorado Public Radio. "We all had mothers who faced antiquated attitudes in the workplace, and we don't want our daughters and our granddaughters to face those same attitudes," Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) said.

Buck was one of the six lawmakers who sponsored the bipartisan legislation. In the Senate, the legislation was led by Republican Sen. Marsha of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York.

Although many supported the measure, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) was concerned about the "overreach" of government. "It's a massive federal overreach," he said in contrast to other GOP lawmakers.

"Some states have decided to regulate confidentiality clauses in contracts, others have decided not to. That's how our system of government works, that's how our constitution works," Jordan added.

Still, the effort to do something about nondisclosure agreements has been in the works for more than five years. It was pushed forward after former Fox News hosts Julie Roginsky and Gretchen Carlson formed Lift Our Voices in response to issues like the ones they faced.

"I was once threatened from helping a sexual assault survivor b/c helping her would have violated my NDA," Roginsky shared on Twitter Tuesday. "I swore then this would never happen to anyone else. Tomorrow, our Speak Out Act goes to the House," she wrote. ⁦

No victim should ever be silenced. Although concerns about government overreach are valid, it's unfair to muzzle potential victims and embolden predators with nondisclosure agreements.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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