Washington restricts use of non-disclosure agreements as tool to silence workers

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Employees in Washington state will no longer be forced to keep quiet about workplace mistreatment, once Governor Jay Inslee signs off on new legislation limiting non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements.

On March 3, Washington lawmakers voted the measures into to law via House Bill 1795, known as the Silenced No More Act, which makes it illegal for companies to ban employees from discussing “illegal acts of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour violations, and sexual assault.”

“Despite the progress we’ve made in recent years, too many workers are still forced to sign NDAs and settlement agreements that silence them,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Liz Berry (D-Seattle) in a statement in early March. “This bill will allow all survivors of inappropriate or illegal workplace misconduct to share their experiences if they choose to do so.”

Big tech companies like Washington-based Amazon and Microsoft have long used NDAs as the tool of choice to prevent outgoing employees from going public with any number of workplace conflicts. The agreements, commonly known as NDAs, often state that workers must repay severance money or face other financial consequences if they violate the terms of the deal.

California enacted a Silenced No More Act into law last year, becoming the first state to do so.

Washington’s version of the law was passed shortly after Google settled a high-profile lawsuit with Chelsey Glasson, a former employee who accused the company of trying to force her out of the job after she stood up for a pregnant co-worker and became pregnant herself.

Glasson, who testified in support of House Bill 1795, said that Google served her with a “walk-away” agreement that included an NDA provision less than a week after her daughter was born.

“Companies routinely use these walk-away agreements during vulnerable moments when people are more likely to sign NDAs and don’t yet know what actions will help them recover long-term, financially, emotionally and otherwise,” Glasson said, according to GeekWire.

If you are experiencing workplace restrictions related to a non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreement in Washington state, call Emery Reddy. You won’t get better advice.

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