As a product of bipartisan work, the U.S. House has passed a bill that would limit employers from using nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements to silence victims of workplace sexual misconduct.
The Speak Out Act passed the chamber 315-109 on Wednesday, after the Senate gave it a green light in September, said co-sponsor Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., in a Twitter Post.
Now, it is headed to President Joe Biden’s desk for the bill to be signed into law.
‘Silencing mechanisms in contracts’
According to Axios, this is a win for former Fox News hosts Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky, who advocated for this piece of legislation.
“When I finally found the courage to sue Roger Ailes and Fox News, it was a really dark day when my team of lawyers said to me you had no case actually. I said, ‘Well, what are you talking about?’ They said because of the silencing mechanisms that you have in your contract,” said Carlson during a press conference hosted by Frankel, according to Deadline.
She continued: “So I had signed that contract and I’m not alone. Millions of other Americans have signed similar contracts. So unbelievably on that day, the choice for me had already been made. And that’s what’s so crazy about these NDAs and forced arbitration is that you are signing on the dotted line before anything has actually ever happened to you yet.”
How does the Speak Out Act work?
The bill only applies to agreements signed before a dispute arises, per Axios. Whether this “dispute” would be a part of an HR complaint or a lawsuit is unclear.
It would not prohibit NDAs that cover up age, gender and race discrimination. It also wouldn’t apply to NDAs that are signed as a part of a settlement.
According to Forbes, these legally binding documents are usually a part of human resources forms that new hires sign. They can be used to protect proprietary information but also silence victims of sexual abuse.
It is the second #MeToo-related legislation to pass this year.