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Reps. Frankel, Buck Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Empower Employees, Consumers to Speak Out Against Sexual Harassment

Washington, DC – Today, Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL-21) and Ken Buck (R-CO-04), joined by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Judiciary Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI-01) and Vice Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), and Representatives Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09),  Cheri Bustos (D-IL-07), and Burgess Owens (R-UT-04) introduced the Speak Out Act. This bipartisan bill would prohibit predispute nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) in instances in which sexual harassment or sexual assault has been alleged in violation of Federal, Tribal, or State law. Current law allows the use of NDAs to force employees and consumers to sign away their rights to come forward about a future allegation of sexual harassment or assault. This results in silencing survivors and perpetuates illegal conduct.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace forces many survivors to pass up on opportunities for advancement, leave their jobs, or their industry altogether,” said Rep. Frankel. “By allowing their stories to be told without pre-imposed penalties, this bill will make workplaces across the country safer and more productive for employers, employees, and consumers.”

“This Congress, I have fought to combat workplace harassment and assault by ending the secretive practices that enable sexual predators while keeping victims in the shadows,” said Rep. Buck. “This March, Congress eliminated predispute forced arbitration in cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment, giving victims a choice of going to court or arbitration to obtain justice. Now it’s time to end predispute nondisclosure agreements, which silence victims of assault and harassment and prevent them from speaking out against the perpetrators.”

“Last year, the Judiciary Committee heard from four survivors of horrific workplace sexual harassment and assault who had their right to a jury trial taken away by forced arbitration clauses buried in their employment contracts. These clauses are frequently paired with nondisclosure agreements, which predators use to keep their misconduct in the shadows,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler. “Earlier this year, the Judiciary Committee passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, which prevents these crimes from being forced into secretive arbitration and pursue justice in our courts. Now, I am proud to join my colleagues in continuing our work to eliminate the cultures of silence that permit abusers to hide their crimes by prohibiting NDAs in cases of sexual harassment and assault, allowing survivors to bring their stories out of the shadows. I thank my colleagues, Representatives Frankel, Buck, Cicilline, Jayapal, Griffith, Bustos, and Owens for their leadership on this issue, and I look forward to enacting this legislation that will finally allow the voices of all survivors to be heard.”

“Earlier this year, President Biden signed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act into law, restoring the constitutional rights of millions of sexual assault and harassment survivors by protecting them from forced arbitration clauses. However, far too many are still unable to come forward about their experiences because of predatory nondisclosure agreements, which are often signed under coercion or hidden in take-it-or-leave-it contracts,” said Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline. “Predators have used these NDAs to build veils of silence around their heinous behavior that allow them to abuse with impunity. The Speak Out Act will prevent abusers from hiding their misconduct behind NDAs, allowing survivors to come forward and finally hold wrongdoers accountable. I’m proud to work with Representatives Frankel, Buck, Nadler, Jayapal, Griffith, Bustos, and Owens on this important issue and to continue our bipartisan work in protecting survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault everywhere.”

“We continue to live in a society that makes it incredibly difficult for survivors of sexual assault and harassment to get justice. It is incumbent on us to remove as many obstacles as we can to ensure survivors are empowered and not silenced," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal. "Nondisclosure and nondisparagement clauses can perpetuate sexual harassment, shield perpetrators, and leave survivors with no tools to end the cycle of abuse. With this bill, we will limit their enforceability when it comes to sexual assault and harassment and ensure that survivors who want to speak out and seek justice are able to do so.”

“Nondisclosure agreements should not be used to prevent victims of sexual assault and harassment from seeking justice,” said Rep. Griffith. “Our bipartisan bill would declare NDAs unenforceable in these situations, allowing survivors to tell their stories and pursue accountability.”

“Earlier this year, my bipartisan legislation to end forced arbitration for victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment was signed into law by President Biden. It’s time we do the same for nondisclosure agreements,” said Rep. Bustos. “Everyone who has faced sexual assault and sexual harassment deserves the opportunity to share their story and seek justice. That’s why I’m proud to join Representatives Lois Frankel and Ken Buck to introduce a bipartisan bill to void NDAs and let survivors speak.”  

“For far too long, nondisclosure agreements have silenced the voices of victims while protecting abusers and shielding egregious misconduct in the workplace,” said Rep. Owens. “I am proud to join my colleagues to help introduce The Speak Out Act to ensure that all survivors of workplace harassment and discrimination can have their voices heard.”

“The introduction of bipartisan legislation to eradicate nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) is a significant moment for millions of Americans who have been forced to suffer in silence even as they have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. These survivors and witnesses are currently prevented from disclosing the truth to their colleagues, their friends, and even their family members. This culture of silence protects predators, and drives countless women and men from their jobs and careers. Following the passage of historic federal legislation that we championed ending the use of forced arbitration clauses that also silenced survivors from speaking out about their experiences, we are grateful to the courageous members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who are joining the fight to make workplaces safer for us all,” said Lift Our Voices co-founders Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky.

The Speak Out Act would:

  • Prohibit the use of predispute NDAs between employers and current, former, and prospective employees, as well as independent contractors;
  • Prohibit the use of predispute NDAs between providers of goods and services and consumers, and;
  • Invalidate existing predispute NDAs in cases that have not yet been filed.

A companion bill will be introduced in the Senate by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).