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What the new Speak Out Act does for sexual harassment victims


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President Joe Biden has just signed a law that allows employees who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to speak out about it even if there is a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in their employment contract that prohibits it. The law took effect on Dec. 7.

Those who have been fighting for the law say this is an important step in getting rid of the culture of silence that has allowed many predators to continue their behavior if those in charge did nothing to stop them. That’s because victims had to remain silent or risk lawsuits that could cripple them financially if they spoke about their treatment and warn others. They also ran the risk that no one else in their industry would hire them.

Two of the legislation’s most prominent advocates have talked about their own experiences when they worked at Fox News. Both sued the company. One of them, Gretchen Carlson, got a public apology and a $20 million settlement.

The law doesn’t address other types of harassment 

Companies can still use NDAs for a number of other legitimate purposes, such as protecting trade secrets and other confidential information. Unfortunately, the law only addresses sexual misconduct. It doesn’t address other types of illegal behavior, like harassment and discrimination of people in legally protected categories.

That’s why Carlson says there’s more work to do. “This does not address NDAs for all other disenfranchised groups. Any kind of racial discrimination: age, disability, LGBTQ+ and gender. This does not address that at all.”

If you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace (or by a colleague or manager inside or outside the workplace) and your employer has done nothing to resolve the issue, it’s wise to seek legal guidance before you take any action, including breaking an NDA.

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