US Senate passes bill to end forced arbitration for sex crime victims

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) released the following statement regarding the Senate passage of the Speak Out Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would prohibit predispute non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in instances of sexual harassment or sexual assault. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on September 29, 2022.

“Today, we took another big step in strengthening workplace protections and guarding against the use of predispute NDAs in sexual harassment and sexual assault cases, which are often used to coerce silence,” wrote the senators. “We look forward to the House passing this bill expeditiously so we can fix this broken system and help end the days of institutional protection for perpetrators.”

Under current law, organizations can use NDAs to prevent sexual harassment or assault survivors from speaking publicly about these incidents. The threat of legal retaliation creates and enables a culture of silence that allows predators to continue their illegal conduct while their victims are forced out of their careers and denied justice.

The Speak Out Act would:

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

The House companion bill was introduced on June 24, 2022 by Representatives Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.).

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