Ok, so Sansa escaped Joffrey’s tyrannical rule in the end. But if you didn’t escape your Joffrey, read on.
You’ve been sexually harassed. Your company wants to settle with you. They also want you to keep your mouth shut. Can they do that? Not in California. Not anymore.
As of January 1, 2019, any provision in a settlement agreement that restricts disclosure of factual information related to claims of sexual assault, harassment or discrimination is invalid. However, your employer can still require that you not disclose any monetary compensation you receive in settlement. See CCP § 1001
In other words, if your boss tries to put his (or her) hands down your pants, or anywhere else you don’t want them to, you have the legal right to tell anyone you wish about the events that occurred, even if you reach a settlement with your employer. Even if that settlement states that you are bound to silence. That said, your employer can enforce the part of an agreement that keeps you from telling people how much cash the company agreed to pay you to settle your claims.
How #MeToo Reshaped the Narrative
Until recently, virtually 100% of settlements in sexual harassment cases included NDA’s (non-disclosure agreements). Bound to silence, these women were unable to warn the others who came after them about the dangers of working with these predatory men. This allowed the behavior to continue, and likely caused it to flourish in a toxic environment of secrecy. We will never know how many acts of sexual violence against women might have been prevented. Nor will we know how many careers might have been saved.
The legislation prohibiting such agreements is a response to the #MeToo movement. The aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey sagas, among others, brought to the forefront the issues surrounding forcing women to sign these agreements. But when Weinstein’s victims began to speak out as a result of the movement, the stories came tumbling out despite the threat of such agreements being used against women, causing legislators to take a hard look at the practice.
As of August 2018, sixteen states had introduced legislation to limit the use of non-disclosure agreements in sexual misconduct cases. On September 30, 2018, then California Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation to prohibit provisions in settlement agreements that prevent the truthful disclosure of information pertaining to sexual harassment and sex discrimination. The law went into effect on January 1, 2019.
In California women are now free to speak the truth. To warn their co-workers about dangerous men in the workplace. To confide in loved ones about what they endured at work. To take back the conversation.
Rule of thumb: Don’t feel muzzled from speaking out truthfully about harassment, but don’t violate an agreement not to speak about any compensation you received because of the harassment that you suffered.
For more information on changes to the law regarding sexual harassment, read our blog “No More One Free Grope” which addresses the changes to the legal standard for prevailing on a claim. In addition, we outline methods for documenting such claims, and cooperating with an investigation into your claims.
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