On Wednesday (November 16th, 2022) the United States House voted to pass the Speak Out Act aimed to restore the voices of victims of sexual harassment and assault. While the bill has yet to be officially signed, President Biden has already signaled his support for the legislation.
As reported in Forbes, the law allows employees to “talk about their experiences with harassment or assault at work by invalidating nondisclosure agreements that force workers to remain silent in these cases.”
- Sexual harassment and assault remain pervasive in the workplace and throughout civic society, affecting millions of Americans.
- Eighty-one percent of women and 43 percent of men have experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault throughout their lifetime.
- One in 3 women has faced sexual harassment in the workplace during her career, and an estimated 87 to 94 percent of those who experience sexual harassment never file a formal complaint.
- Sexual harassment in the workplace forces many women to leave their occupation or industry, or pass up opportunities for advancement.
- In order to combat sexual harassment and assault, it is essential that victims and survivors have the freedom to report and publicly disclose their abuse.
- Nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions in agreements between employers and current, former, and prospective employees, and independent contractors, and between providers of goods and services and consumers, can perpetuate illegal conduct by silencing those who are survivors of illegal sexual harassment and assault or illegal retaliation, or have knowledge of such conduct, while shielding perpetrators and enabling them to continue their abuse.
- Prohibiting nondisclosure and nondisparagement clauses will empower survivors to come forward, hold perpetrators accountable for abuse, improve transparency around illegal conduct, enable the pursuit of justice, and make workplaces safer and more productive for everyone.
Our partners at SHRM regard the legislation as a “win for victims of mistreatment—and not only for those who want to speak publicly, but for their colleagues who might be unaware that others are facing harassment or assault.”
At Kantola, we believe in a work environment that’s free of harassment, so that every employee feels safe to bring their full, authentic self to the workplace. Here you can find a breakdown of states currently requiring sexual harassment training, and more resources on how to prevent harassment in your own organization.