AP

Biden signs #MeToo law curbing confidentiality agreements

Dec 6, 2022, 9:40 PM | Updated: Dec 7, 2022, 11:59 am

President Joe Biden speaks after touring the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company facility in...

President Joe Biden speaks after touring the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company facility in Phoenix, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed legislation curbing the use of confidentiality agreements that block victims of sexual harassment from speaking publicly about misconduct in the workplace.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden had acted on the bipartisan Speak Out Act, which bars the use of nondisclosure agreements that employees or contractors are required to sign, often as a condition of employment.

The new law, among the workplace changes pushed in the wake of the #MeToo movement, applies to any nondisclosure agreements, also known as NDAs, signed before a dispute has occurred.

“Instead of protecting trade secrets as it was initially intended, abusive use of NDAs silence employees and covers up serious and systemic misconduct,” said New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat who introduced the measure.

The law would make existing nondisclosure agreements unenforceable. It also would apply to any agreements between providers of goods and services and their customers.

Gillibrand cited massage parlors and assisted living facilities as examples of places where mandatory NDAs have been used.

Any agreements signed after a dispute or regarding any other allegations, such as discrimination based on race or religion, would not be affected by the law.

Employers and consumers sometimes unknowingly sign away their rights with the agreements and that allows harassment to continue by silencing victims and shielding perpetrators, a group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers said in a statement last month after the House passed the measure on a 315-109 vote.

“Today, 1 in 3 workers is subjected to NDAs that hide sexual misconduct in order to protect a business’s reputation,” the lawmakers said. “We’re taking the gag off of survivors and pushing businesses to create safer work environments.”

The Senate approved the measure unanimously.

Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, who accused the now-deceased network CEO Roger Ailes of making unwanted advances and harming her career when she rejected him, pushed for the change and has spoken about how the NDA she signed has barred her from telling her story.

The law would not apply to Carlson’s NDA, which was signed as part of a reported $20 million settlement with Fox News.

The law follows another bipartisan change Biden approved in March that gave workplace victims of sexual assault or harassment the right to seek resource in the courts rather than being forced to settle cases through arbitration. The process often benefits employers and keeps allegations from becoming public.

Both measures, coming five years after the #MeToo movement sparked a global reckoning against sexual misconduct, received rare, broad bipartisan support in Congress.

Gillibrand said she is working with South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who partnered with her on the bills, to pass similar laws related to age discrimination in the workplace.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

14 hours ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

15 hours ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

2 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

2 days ago

Juanita Beach Kirkland...

Kathy McCormack and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

‘Tis the season for swimming and bacteria alerts in lakes, rivers

With summer about to start, many people flocking to their favorite swimming holes may also want to read up on bacteria warnings.

3 days ago

Image: Members of the Makah Indian tribe paddle away from the rising sun as they head from Neah Bay...

Associated Press

Washington’s Makah Tribe clears major hurdle toward resuming traditional whale hunts

The U.S. granted the Makah Indian Tribe a long-sought waiver that helps clear the way for its first sanctioned whale hunts since 1999.

5 days ago

Biden signs #MeToo law curbing confidentiality agreements