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Congress Passes Speak Out Act, Banning Certain Non-Disclosure Agreements Before Employment Begins

Congress passed the Speak Out Act, S. 4524, which prohibits prospective, pre-dispute non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements that prevent employees from discussing sexual harassment or sexual assault. The Senate passed the bill unanimously on September 29, 2022 and the House of Representatives voted in favor of the measure, 315-109, on November 17, 2022.

The federal legislation applies only to pre-dispute nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreements and similar clauses in employment agreements, rendering them null and void in instances in which sexual harassment or sexual assault is alleged in violation of federal, state, or tribal law. The goal of the bill is to prevent the use of pre-dispute agreements aimed at silencing employees from reporting sexual impropriety in the workplace.

The Speak Out Act only prohibits the use of pre-dispute non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements that were signed before the unlawful conduct begins.Employers may still require non-disclosure agreements to protect trade secrets and confidential business information, and may still include confidentiality provisions in severance agreements.

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