Washington State Governor Jay Inslee on March 24 signed into law Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1795 — also known as the “Silenced No More Act” — which prohibits agreements containing nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions that prevent an employee or independent contractor from discussing certain violations of law including illegal acts of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour violations, and sexual assault.
The provision applies to current, former, or prospective employees or independent contractors who are Washington residents governed by Washington law. It does not prohibit the protection of trade secrets, proprietary information or confidential information that does not involve illegal acts.
The now-prohibited provisions in agreements “have become routine and perpetuate illegal conduct by silencing those who are victims or who have knowledge of illegal discrimination, illegal harassment, illegal retaliation, wage and hour violations, or sexual assault,” the act states. “It is the intent of the legislature to prohibit nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions in agreements, which defeat the strong public policy in favor of disclosure.”
Washington becomes the second state, after California, to render such provisions in employment and independent contractor agreements void and unenforceable if they prevent disclosures of certain illegal conduct, The National Law Review reported.
The act applies to nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions contained “in employment agreements, independent contractor agreements, agreements to pay compensation in exchange for the release of a legal claim, or any other agreement between an employer and an employee” or independent contractor. In addition to rendering the offending provisions unenforceable, it also prohibits employers from requesting or requiring an employee or independent contractor to enter into an agreement containing a prohibited provision.