California businesses may soon be barred from requiring workers to sign non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from talking about illegal discrimination and harassment they've experienced at work. On Thursday, the Silenced No More Act, a bill that would prohibit such agreements, passed the California Assembly, crossing the last major hurdle before continuing on to California governor Gavin Newsom's desk to sign.
The bill was authored by state senator Connie Leyva and is backed by former Pinterest employee Ifeoma Ozoma, who helped draft the law after speaking out about her own experience of discrimination and retaliation at the company. "It means a lot to have turned my pain into this progress for millions of people," Ozoma said.
The bill already passed the California senate by a wide margin and will return to the senate for concurrence before Newsom takes it up. "It's not done until it's signed, but I'm just so damn proud," Ozoma said.
Until this week, the California Chamber of Commerce and a slew of business groups in the state had opposed the bill. But following a series of minor amendments in the assembly, the groups dropped their opposition and remain neutral on the bill.
While the tech industry was, in part, the inspiration for the Silenced No More Act, very few tech companies have come out in support of the bill. Following backlash from employees, Pinterest announced its support in April and said it would implement the changes the bill called for, regardless of its passage. Expensify's CEO, meanwhile, told Ozoma during a Protocol event last month his company would also update its employee agreements with the bill's language.
The Silenced No More Act broadens a #MeToo-era law that prohibited NDAs that barred discussion of sexual harassment or gender discrimination. The new law would apply to all forms of harassment and discrimination.
Tech employees began circulating a letter earlier this week, calling on Newsom to sign the Silenced No More Act into law. Newsom is facing a contentious recall election in California. In the event that he loses, he still would have until October, when his replacement is sworn in, to sign the bill.