This year has seen some positive changes in the law for sexual harassment victims. Earlier this year, Congress enacted a new law prohibiting employers from requiring mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment and sexual abuse cases. Check out our blog: Sexually Harassed? Get Your Day in Court as Mandatory Arbitration is Now Illegal.
Most recently, on December 7, 2022, President Biden signed the “Speak Out Act” into law. The Act prohibits the enforcement of confidentiality and/or non-disparagement clauses relating to allegations of sexual harassment or assault that were entered into before an allegation of such misconduct is made. In other words, if you raise allegations of sexual harassment or sexual abuse, any confidentiality and/or non-disparagement provisions you may have signed after this law went into effect will be invalid. However, other than holding such provisions unenforceable, there appears no other remedies are available under the Act. Notably, this law does not prevent confidentiality and/or non-disparagement clauses in agreements that settle such harassment or abuse claims.
The Act was passed in the wake of the Me-Too movement and was intended by Congress to encourage more transparency and eliminate the enforceability of provisions that “perpetuate illegal conduct” by “silencing” survivors and enabling wrongdoers to continue their abusive conduct. This new law will only apply to agreements signed after the law went into effect, which means agreements signed before this new law may still be enforceable.
The Act does not prohibit states and localities from passing even more restrictive laws. Thus, employees may want to seek counsel in the state where any non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreement is entered.
Sass Law Firm represents employees and students in sexual harassment and sexual abuse cases. If you are a victim of sexual harassment or sexual abuse at work or at your school, do not delay in seeking legal counsel to understand your rights and how to navigate these claims.