California Just Moved to Protect Workers Who Speak Out Against Harassment and Discrimination

California Just Moved to Protect Workers Who Speak Out Against Harassment and Discrimination
Photo: Justin Sullivan / Staff, Getty Images

Moving to strengthen protections for workers who speak out about harassment and discrimination, even in cases where they’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Silenced No More Act into law on Thursday night.

Thanks to a Me Too-era law known as the Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures Act, which bans the enforcement of NDAs in sexual harassment cases, workers in California are already protected when they come forward to report claims of sexual harassment or abuse. But as former Pinterest employee Ifeoma Ozoma realised after she came forward with allegations of racial discrimination last year, those same protections didn’t apply to workers blowing the whistle on other types of work-based abuse.

Now, thanks to the Silenced No More Act — which Ozoma played a key role in advocating for — the existing law has been amended so that workers facing discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or age will also be legally protected for speaking out about those experiences going forward. The updated law will be a particular boon to workers in tech — an industry that just so happens to be simultaneously rife with complaints about harassment and heavily reliant on the exact types of nondisclosure agreements that the Silenced No More Act seeks to protect against.

In June 2020, Ozoma and another former Pinterest employee, Aerica Shimizu Banks, came forward with claims of racial discrimination they had experienced during the course of their work at the company. In the intervening months, Ozoma became increasingly aware of the intimidation tactics and legal obstacles facing workers who sought to come forward with claims of workplace harassment, and she decided to lend her voice to causes and legislation that would empower workers who had once relied on whisper networks and luck.

In addition to her public advocacy work on the Silenced No More Act, Ozoma also recently launched the Tech Worker Handbook — a “collection of resources for tech workers who are looking to make more informed decisions about whether to speak out on issues that are in the public interest.”