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WA House Passes Silenced No More Act

OLYMPIA, WA, Feb. 9, 2020 — The Washington House of Representatives passed the Silenced No More Act today, moving the state one step closer to protecting workers from the abusive use of non-disclosure & non-disparagement agreements (NDAs). State Rep. Liz Berry (D-Seattle) introduced House Bill 1795 earlier this year to prohibit NDAs from being used to block employees from speaking out about harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and wage-theft in the workplace.

“No worker should be forced to suffer the pain, trauma, and indignity of workplace harassment, discrimination, or retaliation alone,” said Berry. “For too long, NDAs and settlement agreements have been used to perpetuate this culture of silence by blocking employees from speaking out and sharing their stories in pursuit of justice, healing, and protecting others. We now have the opportunity to end this practice and declare that Washington workers will be silenced no more.”

While NDAs have been used for decades to protect trade secrets and proprietary information, the pervasive abuse of NDAs to shield employers from accountability and public scrutiny for inappropriate—and even illegal—conduct came into clear focus during the #MeToo movement. Since that time, workers’ rights advocates throughout the nation have fought to end the use of NDAs to silence employees who come forward to speak out against wrongdoing.

“All across Washington state, in big tech companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon, and other industries, like our state’s booming farming industry, witnesses and victims are subjected to NDAs that inhibit their right to speak about unlawful conduct in the workplace,” said Cher Scarlett, a software engineer and workers’ rights advocate who became a leader in the #AppleToo movement. “This makes the corporations the judges and juries on their own wrongdoing, as the victims of these confidentiality clauses are erased. I chose to speak out about unlawful conduct I witnessed at Apple in violation of the NLRA, and it cost me my career at Apple and drove me further into debt. Apple should not have the right to decide which speech is protected.”

Berry worked closely with Ms. Scarlett and Chelsey Glasson, a former Google employee and whistleblower, in drafting this legislation. Washington’s Silenced No More Act was inspired in part by the recently enacted California law of the same name.

“NDAs have allowed workplace misconduct to continue because they bar people from sharing their stories, from fighting, and because they keep the rest of the world ignorant of the extent to which misconduct takes place,” said Glasson, who sued Google for pregnancy discrimination and retaliation.

As home to many of the largest multinational employers like Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing, Washington’s Silenced No More Act will likely play a significant role in extending worker protections far outside the state’s borders. The bill now moves to the state Senate for further consideration.

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