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Bill Limiting Nondisclosure Agreements Advanced by Senate Panel

Sept. 15, 2022, 2:05 PM

A US Senate panel advanced a bipartisan bill aimed at limiting the use of workplace nondisclosure agreements after the committee delayed its consideration several times.

The legislation, known as the SPEAK Out Act (S.4524), would nullify nondisclosure agreements—which are often included in employment contracts—for workers reporting sexual harassment and assault allegations. Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson and her policy group Lift Our Voices is backing the measure.

The legislation specifically targets those agreements signed before a dispute arises. The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the bill by a voice vote, after the House Judiciary Committee advanced a companion bill in July.

Since its introduction, the bill has had bipartisan, bicameral support, a rare feat for pro-worker legislation. During the committee markup, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and John Cornyn (Texas) expressed support for the bill, joining a handful of Democrats in doing so.

The bill’s path hasn’t been friction-free, however.

The Senate panel twice delayed its consideration of the legislation, and the bill has faced pushback from outside groups. Conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation is opposing the bill on constitutional grounds, and calling it “duplicative.”

“There are serious questions about the congressional authority to even pass a bill like the Speak Out Act, because Congress has only the powers explicitly enumerated in the Constitution, and no more,” Sarah Parshall Perry, a senior legal fellow with the Heritage Foundation, said in an email.

“Not only have state laws that mirror this bill already been passed in California, New York, and Pennsylvania, but employees and potential employees are already protected by certain provisions of federal law regarding employment that are specifically germane to this legislation,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at; Laura D. Francis at