The Speak Out Act (SOA) is a federal law that took effect in late 2022, giving workers more rights when employers seek to enforce nondisclosure agreements in certain situations. Specifically, the act protects employees subjected to sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace by prohibiting employers from using nondisclosure clauses to stifle them. 

What Is the Speak Out Act?

The SOA seeks to protect victims of sexual harassment and assault by prohibiting enforcement of pre-dispute nondisclosure or non-disparagement clauses. To illustrate what this means, we’ll look more closely at the parameters around this legislation. 

The SOA applies exclusively to pre-dispute non-disparagement and nondisclosure agreements that may come up in cases involving allegations of sexual harassment or abuse. It is important to note that “dispute” can refer to various scenarios—from a full legal battle to consulting with an administrative agency such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or even sending a demand letter from an attorney after facing workplace misconduct. 

In some instances, two parties will reach an agreement about an assault or harassment incident before engaging in formal legal proceedings—such as when one party agrees not to disclose certain information in exchange for compensation from another party. In other situations, an employee who has initiated a lawsuit or arbitration against their employer for on-the-job sexual harassment could resolve the same dispute by a settlement, including a nondisclosure provision that would bar them from discussing their case. Under the SOA, the employee would be bound by the settlement’s nondisclosure agreement the parties entered into that agreement after the legal dispute began.

Examples of Workplace Sexual Harassment

  • Alice loved her work and her colleagues. Her supervisor was always friendly, sometimes too much. He began making comments about her looks and how she felt about him. Alice tried to avoid him as much as possible, but he pushed harder, making outright sexual advances. He told Alice that if she didn’t comply with his advances, she’d lose her job.
  • Simon worked for the same company for over a decade. He’d always gotten along with his supervisor but noticed things were different. Simon’s supervisor began making sexual jokes and innuendos whenever Simon was around and even placed their hands on Simon many times without asking. When Simon asked for a raise, he was told he needed to be more accommodating, which he interpreted as engaging in sexual activity. 
  • Alex was a star employee and enjoyed her work. Her supervisor had always been professional, but when Alex asked for a promotion, they made suggestive comments, making it clear that if she wanted the promotion, the supervisor expected sexual acts in return.

Sommers Schwartz Helps Protect Victims of Workplace Sexual Harassment

The Speak Out Act provides you with legal protection to hold those responsible for your suffering and warn others about workplace dangers. If you’ve found yourself in this unfortunate situation, contact a Sommers Schwartz workplace sexual harassment attorney today to confidentially discuss your case and learn how we can help.

Tad T. Roumayah

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Tad T. Roumayah

Tad Roumayah focuses his practice primarily on employment litigation, representing employees who have encountered discrimination, retaliation, wrongful discharge, whistleblower protection claims, wage and hour violations and other employment issues and disputes.