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What is California’s Silenced No More Act?

On Behalf of | Oct 20, 2021 | Harassment & discrimination

This month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law, taking an important step toward ridding California workplaces of harassment and discrimination.

The Silenced No More Act prevents employers from making an employee’s silence a condition of any settlement in a discrimination case. It expands coverage of the existing laws that applied to issues of sexual discrimination, harassment or assault.

Forcing victims to keep quiet allows discrimination to continue

Before this law, many employers would only settle discrimination or harassment cases if the employee making the complaint signed a non-disclosure agreement. So you could say that the payments they made were not so much an apology, admission of guilt or compensation as hush money.

By trying to protect their company’s name, they were also protecting the abuser and making it harder for others who had suffered discrimination or harassment at that person’s hands to come forward.

When employers swear those who speak out to silence, others are more likely to brush off incidents, thinking they are being oversensitive or have done something to warrant the behavior. For example, you may believe it is an accident that a colleague brushes up against you by the coffee machine, or you think that you really didn’t deserve that promotion as much as a colleague who seems to be less qualified.

When employers cannot silence people, employees are more likely to discover that the actions they suffered are part of a pattern. For instance, that colleague has a habit of brushing up against women at the water cooler. Or that boss makes a habit of overlooking people of your gender or race for promotion.

The law is new, so some employers may still think they can get away with paying you to keep quiet. If you have suffered discrimination or harassment at work, understanding your legal options will be crucial.