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16 Nov

November 2021: California Passes “Silenced No More Act”

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Update Applicable to:

All employers in California.

What happened?

On October 7, 2021, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 331 (SB-331) that builds on previous legislation, Senate Bill 820 (SB-820).

What are the details?

Effective January 1, 2022, Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are now prohibited for all alleged claims of workplace harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, including those based on race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or veteran or military status.

SB-311 makes several other key changes as well:

  1. Right to Consult an Attorney: An employer offering a current or former employee a settlement agreement related to the employee’s employment shall notify the employee that the employee has a right to consult an attorney.

  2. Five-Day Period to Consider Agreement: An employer must provide the employee five business days to consider the agreement, though an employee may sign the agreement prior to the end of this time period, as long as the employee’s decision to accept such shortening of time is “knowing and voluntary and is not induced by the employer through fraud, misrepresentation, or a threat to withdraw or alter the offer prior to the expiration of the reasonable time period, or by providing different terms to employees who sign such an agreement prior to the expiration of such time period.”

  3. Non-Disparagement Provisions: Employers may continue to use non-disparagement provisions as a condition of employment or in settlement agreements. However, a non-disparagement provision that restricts an employee’s ability to disclose information related to conditions in the workplace must include the following language: “Nothing in this agreement prevents you from discussing or disclosing information about unlawful acts in the workplace, such as harassment or discrimination or any other conduct that you have reason to believe is unlawful.”

  4. Exemptions: SB-331 does not apply where a “negotiated settlement agreement” that resolves an underlying claim that has been filed by an employee in court, before an administrative agency, in an alternative dispute resolution forum, or through an employer’s internal complaint process, provided that “the employee is given notice and opportunity to retain an attorney or is represented by an attorney.” Thus, there are still instances where employers can utilize NDAs in settlement agreements.

For more information, please see the links below:

Senate Bill No. 331

Senate Bill No. 820


What do employers need to do?

Employers should update their employment settlement agreement forms to comply with the new law.