A House committee advanced a bill that would void nondisclosure agreements for workers reporting allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, less than six months after similar legislation limiting arbitration pacts was signed into law.
The US House Judiciary Committee voted 22-13 to advance the measure (
The legislation specifically covers instances when the nondisclosure agreements, also known as “gag orders,” are signed before misconduct takes place. Such agreements are sometimes included in employment contracts, which workers must sign before beginning a job.
Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson is backing the SPEAK Out Act, riding the coattails of her previous success lobbying to ban the enforcement of mandatory arbitration agreements for workplace sexual harassment or assault claims. President Joe Biden signed that similar bill into law in March.
“It’s another step in our critical work to eliminate the culture of silence,” said Rep.
Gaetz said that if someone is being silenced, “they’re being silenced by the virtue of their own decision” not because a powerful company or person is pushing them into mandatory arbitration.
He said the bill may create a “bizarre” incentive for people to feign allegations of sexual harassment to evade the constraints of a nondisclosure agreement for other purposes.
“I think you view this as creating havoc, and I would argue that that would not be the case,” said Rep.
Gaetz pointed out that he supported the previous legislation limiting mandatory arbitration agreements. He voted against the SPEAK Out Act on nondisclosure agreement restrictions.
Other committee Republicans, including Reps.
Hawaii Tuesday expanded its ban on workplace nondisclosure agreements to cover settlements and other contracts that would prevent employees from talking about claims of sexual harassment or sexual assault. It is one of 15 states that restrict employers’ use of nondisclosure agreements to keep quiet allegations of workplace sexual misconduct.
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