Sexual harassment should never occur in any setting. This form of harassment is always unacceptable.
No one should feel unsafe in their workplace because they are the target of unwanted sexual advances or other forms of sexual harassment. Additionally, no employee should feel that they must grant sexual favors or return the sexual attention of a superior in order to keep their job or earn a raise or promotion.
Unfortunately, sexual harassment remains a problem in various workplaces and industries. It is also not uncommon for victims of workplace sexual harassment to feel uncomfortable speaking out about their experiences.
There are various reasons that victims of workplace sexual harassment may feel uncomfortable bringing attention to their plights. In some instances, workers may even feel that they do not have the option of reporting what has happened to them because they have signed confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from doing so.
No worker should be concerned that the terms of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) will stop them from bringing instances of sexual harassment in the workplace to light. Luckily, newly proposed legislation may make it easier for workers to report sexual harassment even when they have signed NDAs.
What workers need to know about the ‘Speak Out Act’
Reps. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) recently introduced legislation called the “Speak Out Act” that would ideally prevent employers from attempting to silence workers who report workplace sexual harassment by enforcing confidentiality agreements. In the past, some employers have used this as a tactic to keep workers from bringing attention to sexual harassment that they have experienced directly or have witnessed others experiencing.
According to Frankel, “This is a preventive piece. When companies that are going to have offenders are aware that they cannot hide illegal sexual harassment, that they cannot put it under the rug, they’re going to take more steps from the get-go to keep it from happening.”
That is an important point. The main purpose of this legislation may be to ensure workers feel safer when they choose to report workplace sexual harassment, even if doing so could technically be a violation of an NDA’s terms. If this legislation is passed, workplace sexual harassment may become less of a significant problem because employers will have to take more steps to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Knowing that they will not be able to conceal sexual harassment as easily as they may have in the past will incentivize employers to proactively address an issue that they might have otherwise ignored.
Some companies have already voluntarily adopted policies that would prevent NDAs from being used as tools to hide illegal conduct or unethical behavior. The sponsors and cosponsors of the Speak Out Act believe federal protections are necessary to ensure these policies become standard among all employers.
The fact that such legislation is being introduced is encouraging. However, legislation cannot entirely prevent workplace sexual harassment from occurring. When it does, employees who take legal action against their employers should strongly consider hiring attorneys. A lawyer can play a critical role in the outcome of this type of case.
Do you believe your employer has committed sexual harassment or allowed it to be committed in the workplace? If so, review your case with a California workplace sexual harassment attorney at Licata & Yeremenko, A Professional Law Corporation. We will gladly discuss your legal options. Learn more about what we can do for you by contacting us online or calling us at 818-783-5757 to schedule a consultation.