Workplace harassment and discrimination are still major issues, despite the considerable attention they have received in recent years. Sadly, old habits die hard for some people, and specific groups of people continue to face harassment and discrimination regularly.
No employer wants people to think of their company as a place where this kind of thing happens — and some tried to protect their company’s reputations by forbidding their employees from discussing what they’ve heard, seen or experienced.
When employees filed complaints, employers have made compensation dependent on the employee signing an agreement containing confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses. In other words, the only way an employee could get compensated was to agree never to mention the issue again. That allowed the perpetrators to continue in their jobs as if nothing happened and did nothing to solve the problem or make the workplace safer for other employees.
After the national press shone the spotlight on several big California-based tech firms for doing this, California decided to take action. In January, the Silenced No More Act came into place. It is now illegal for an employer to make an employee sign confidentiality or non-disparagement clauses when they claim discrimination or harassment.
What difference does the Silence No More Act make?
There are three main ways that the Act helps:
- Firstly, many people feel better after they talk about the events they experienced. Forcing them to remain silent could hinder their ability to process the experience and put it behind them.
- Secondly, it removes the cloak of invisibility that protects perpetrators. People tend to think twice if they know others will hear about their actions.
- Thirdly, it encourages others to come forward, people who were perhaps too afraid to be the first to speak up.
If you face workplace harassment or discrimination, get legal help to understand your rights.