Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed the Silenced No More Act into law, making Washington the second state in the nation after California to put rules in place that prevent businesses from imposing non-disclosure agreements that bar workers from discussing certain kinds of illegal harassment and discrimination.
The law, which will apply to Washington employers including Microsoft and Amazon, will take effect on June 9 of this year.
The Washington version of the bill had been pushed forward by former Apple engineer Cher Scarlett and former Google employee Chelsey Glasson. Both Scarlett and Glasson testified in support of the bill, discussing their own experiences at Apple and Google and their fears that speaking out about problems at the companies would risk violating their NDAs. Glasson settled a pregnancy discrimination suit against Google last month.
The law builds on prior legislation passed in California last year, which was inspired by the stories of Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, two former Pinterest employees who spoke out in 2020 about discrimination and retaliation they faced at Pinterest. An earlier #MeToo-era law had made it possible for California employees to talk about gender and sexual discrimination and harassment they experienced. But the Silenced No More Act expanded that law to apply to all forms of illegal harassment and discrimination.
The Washington law takes the California legislation even further, applying to illegal harassment and discrimination, as well as retaliation, wage and hour violations and sexual assault. The bill had faced some initial opposition from business groups in the state, including the Washington Retail Association and the Association of Washington Business, which argued that the law gave workers too much power to determine what constitutes illegal activity. But supporters of the legislation ultimately prevailed. The bill passed both chambers of the legislature earlier this month, and had been awaiting Inslee's signature.