In 2022, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law the Silenced No More Act (HB1795), which limits the use of workplace non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements, commonly known as NDAs. Under the new law, employees and independent contractors throughout the state can no longer be forced to stay quiet about certain unlawful workplace mistreatment.
High-tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft have long relied on NDAs to restrict outgoing employees from shining light on workplace conflicts. To ensure compliance, the agreements often stipulate that workers must repay severance money or face other financial penalties if they violate the terms of the deal.
Read through the following FAQ about the Silenced No More Act to see if you have a case against your current or former employer and learn more about the law.
What is the Washington Silenced No More Act?
The Silenced No More Act prevents Washington businesses from imposing NDAs that prevent workers from discussing “illegal acts of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour violations, and sexual assault.” The law expands previous Washington state law that prohibited employers from making employees sign NDAs in regards to sexual harassment or assault cases.
“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,” said Former Google employee and whistleblower Chelsey Glasson in an interview with GeekWire. Her testimony and lawsuit against Google helped get the Washington law passed.
How does the Silenced No More Act protect employees?
The law protects workers from the abusive use of NDAs, allowing victims of inappropriate or illegal misconduct at the workplace to share their experiences without fear of retaliation.
Specifically, the law invalidates any NDA with a current, former, or prospective employee or independent contractor that prevents them from talking about wage and hour violations, discrimination, harassment, sexual assault, or retaliation with other employees or employers whether at work, work events, or offsite.
The law also prohibits employers from punishing an employee or contractor for talking about these acts.
What does the Silenced No More Act NOT protect against?
The law does NOT ban NDAs that seek to:
- Restrict the disclosure of how much money was paid in a claim settlement;
- Protect trade secrets, proprietary information, or confidential information that is not illegal.
Why should people care?
Although NDAs designed to guard secrets about workplace mistreatment are more commonly used at large tech companies, the Silenced No More Act applies to all companies in Washington state. So whether you work at a high-tech giant like Amazon or a small startup in another industry, you will no longer be forced to keep quiet about workplace misconduct and violations.
What are the consequences and repercussions?
An employer who violates the law after it goes into effect is responsible for damages up to $10,000, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.
Which NDAs are retroactive under the new law?
The Silenced No More Act nullifies NDAs created before June 9, 2022 that “were agreed to at the outset of employment or during the course of employment” which are not part of agreements to settle a legal claim.
What do I do I signed an NDA since June 2022?
If you believe you signed an illegal NDA or are experiencing restrictions related to a workplace non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreement in Washington state, don’t suffer in silence. Contact the employment attorneys at Emery Reddy for a free case review with our legal team. We’ll help you understand what your options are and how to move forward.