The “Speak Out Act” Allows Sexual Assault Victims to Speak Up and Speak Out

The “Speak Out Act” Allows Sexual Assault Victims to Speak Up and Speak OutWhen the #MeToo movement became prominent in 2017, it shined a light onto workplace harassment. Thousands of people took the microphone and shouted out against sexual assault and harassment by their coworkers and employers; by politicians and celebrities. This began a greater shift in society, helping make it not only easier to speak up against those in their workplace who act in a sexually inappropriate manner, but also culminating in passing laws.

Recently, Congress passed a new law prohibiting nondisclosure agreements in cases involving victims of sexual assault or harassment. Previously, these agreements kept these victims silent, unable to publicly speak about the perpetrator or the companies that allowed or encouraged the illegal behavior. With this new law, fewer victims will feel threatened to leave their job due to sexual harassment, and instead feel empowered to speak up publicly about their abuse. We know and understand that being made to feel like you cannot talk about these experiences can be a sickening experience that isolates you from your peers and co-workers. We hope that this new law can help make workplace sexual harassment a thing of the past.

What is the Speak Out Act?

On December 7, 2022, 117th Congress Public Law 224 or the Speak Out Act was passed “to limit the judicial enforceability of predispute nondisclosure and non-disparagement contract clauses relating to disputes involving sexual assault and sexual harassment.” The text of the Act itself notes several important related statistics that support the passing of this act. These include that every year, millions of people experience sexual harassment and assault in the workplace and throughout civil society.

While the majority of the victims are women, with 81% having experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault, men are also victims, with 43% of them experiencing this type of abuse as well. Many women are forced to leave their place of employment, or pass up on career-advancing opportunities, due to sexual harassment. The most shocking figure states that “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.”

The document goes on to say that nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreements (NDAs) 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.”

In short, this act prohibits NDAs from stopping victims of sexual harassment and assault from speaking out publicly; therefore, no longer providing a safe space for sexual predators and abusers.

What do I need to know about NDAs?

Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) and non-disparagement agreements are quite common among the United States workforce with over one third of the working population bound to a NDA (also known as a confidentiality agreement).

While there is some overlapping, the difference between a nondisclosure agreement and non-disparagement agreement is that the latter prohibits one party from speaking negatively about the other; whereas an NDA is a contract you sign that basically states specific aspects of the company or business that you are and are not allowed to talk about.

For example, if you work for an innovative company that’s working on new technology or discovering new information, you will likely have to sign an NDA as the company would likely not want that information being released without their permission. Examples of jobs that might require an NDA include jobs at tech companies (such as Tesla or Apple), government jobs, insurance or investment jobs, and so forth. If there’s information that the employer wants to have control over, there will likely be an NDA required of you.

NDAs and sexual harassment

As NDAs are individually created contracts, your company’s NDA may have stipulations prohibiting “victims of sexual harassment or assault from publicly discussing the settlement and what happened to them.” Because of this, many victims are wary of speaking out due to the repercussions (legal or otherwise) they might face. Under the new law, this should no longer be a fear for them.

What does sexual harassment in the workplace look like?

Now that NDAs should no longer protect employers or businesses from victims speaking out against them for sexual harassment or assault, it is important (as it was before) to know what forms of sexual harassment from coworkers and/or bosses may look like.

Any unwanted physical contact constitutes as basic sexual assault, but can include verbal harassment as well. Physical contact is not necessary for an assault to have occurred. Examples of sexual harassment and assault include:

  • Unwelcome touching, hugging or kissing
  • Catcalls or comments about one’s body
  • Sexual assault or groping
  • Sexually explicit language, pranks, or jokes
  • Stalking behavior (texts, phone calls, gifts, etc)
  • Unwanted advances
  • Pornographic or offensive images

Don’t let fear hold you back if someone acts inappropriately toward you. It is a scarring experience when someone touches you or speaks to you in a way with which you are not comfortable. It can leave you feeling scared, alone, and sick. You should not have to feel that way anywhere, much less at the workplace. With the new act in place, there are no NDAs that can stop you from filing a lawsuit or speaking out publicly against your abuser or abusive company. Places that allow predators and perpetrators to thrive, and where victims are kept quiet should not exist in our society.

If you have been the victim of sexual assault or harassment, you should contact your Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer as soon as possible. Whether you feel you have been retaliated against due to speaking out about the incident, or whether you are afraid to do so in the first place, at Taylor & Ring, we have years of experience handling these cases. Now, with the Speak Out Act, we have the resources to fight even harder to ensure that you are properly compensated for your suffering and losses. To schedule a consultation, call us or use our contact page. You don’t have to be afraid to speak up anymore. We serve the greater southern California area.