CA looks to pass Senate Bill 331, preventing workplaces from hiding harassment behind NDAs


Prot Tachapanit

By Mary Katreeb, STAFF WRITER

Senate Bill 331 is an act to limit the terms that workplaces can include when having employees sign non-disclosure agreements. Non-disclosure agreements or NDAs, have often been used by employers to cover up harassment. Senate Bill 331 refers to the usage of such agreements by workplaces as non-disparagement agreements, as they are used primarily to protect a company’s image.

Senate Bill 331 (i.e., SB 331) was introduced by Senator Leyva to protect California workers. If SB 331 passes, it will give workers more freedom to report illegal behavior in the workplace, such as sexual assault and harassment. As noted on the California Legislature Information website, “This bill would…prohibit the employer from requiring an employee to sign a nondisparagement agreement or other document to the extent it has the purpose or effect of denying the employee the right to disclose information about those acts.”

While California does have worker protections such as The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (i.e., FEHA). SB 331 would expand such protections to include legislation about NDAs specifically.

FEHA currently prohibits employers from offering financial bribes to employees to get them to stay silent about unlawful workplace activities. SB 331 would specifically include sexual harassment and discrimination as unlawful acts that workplaces could not make employers sign NDAs.

SB 331 would serve to offer clarity about public policy in regards to signing NDAs as an employee. Workers would be protected, retaining their voice and ability to speak out against abuse they may have faced. If SB 331 passes, CA will become the first state to have such legislation.

Senate Bill 331 is set to have a hearing in the California Senate in late March. SB 331 was marketed as the “Silenced No More Act.” Whether or not this statement will be allowed to ring true remains to be seen.