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California Employers Can Silence Employees No More In 2022

On Behalf of | Dec 1, 2021 | Employment Law

California is already recognized as having some of the most employee-friendly laws in the US. New laws that will take effect in 2022 continue to encourage improved conditions for employees in the workplace.

In October, Governor Newsom signed into law some new legislation aimed at improving workplace safety and establishing equality of pay practices. One of the new laws that will take effect on January 1, 2022, affects the language that employers can use in discrimination settlement agreements with employees and expands the reach of an earlier law from 2019.

The California-based employment discrimination lawyers at Licata & Yeremenko, A Professional Law Corporation hope that the new laws will create more accountability for employers and better work environments for employees.

What the Law Says Now

Prior to 2019, California settlement agreements were allowed to contain provisions that prevented disclosure of factual information when the underlying claim was for workplace discrimination.

Effective January 1, 2019, SB 820 prohibits employers from including non-disclosure agreements (NDA) in the settlement of civil or administrative actions brought by an employee for:

  • workplace harassment or discrimination based on sex
  • retaliation for reporting workplace harassment or discrimination based on sex

Existing law still allows employers to prevent employees from disclosing factual information concerning other types of unlawful behavior in the workplace.

How the Law Will Change

The recently-passed SB 331 will further limit an employer’s ability to prevent an employee from disclosing factual information regarding unlawful actions occurring in the workplace.

The new law acknowledges the prohibitions put in place by SB 820 and expands their reach by giving employees the right (after settlement) to disclose any factual information about unlawful acts in the workplace or any workplace conduct that they have reason to believe is unlawful.

What this means is that employers cannot prevent employees from disclosing factual information about discrimination that occurs at work involving any of the following protected classes under California law:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex/gender (includes marital status, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation)
  • Military/veteran status
  • Medical condition
  • Disability
  • National origin/ancestry/genetics
  • Requesting family or pregnancy leave
  • Age (40+)

SB 331 does preserve the right of an employer to prevent an employee from disclosing the amount paid pursuant to a settlement or severance agreement.

What the New Law Means for Employees

Opponents of non-disclosure agreements have long argued that they give employers the opportunity to avoid accountability for serious legal wrongs and potentially allow those wrongs to continue relatively unchecked.

The new laws will allow information about discriminatory employment practices to become widely known if persons affected choose to share the information. And that could be bad for business.

Some say the inability to keep employees from talking will discourage companies from trying to settle employment discrimination claims and result in lengthier court proceedings.

But maybe it will provide additional incentive for companies to respond more quickly to reports of discrimination and have less tolerance for unfair and illegal behavior in the workplace.

At Licata & Yeremenko, A Professional Law Corporation, we are pleased to see continued workplace improvements for California workers. Our California employment law attorneys look forward to using the new laws to further assist our clients and enforce their rights against discrimination at work.

If you have been treated unfairly at work based on characteristics California law protects, call Licata & Yeremenko, A Professional Law Corporation at 818-783-5757 or contact us here for a free evaluation of your case.