There is a new law in Washington that affects the use of nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions in employment contracts. The law is known as the “Silenced No More Act” and it was signed into effect by Washington Governor Jay Inslee on March 24, 2022. Let us take a look at some of the most common asked questions regarding the new law and its mandates. It is critical for Washington business to act now to ensure they are in full compliance with all of Washington State’s employment laws.
What Does the New Law Say?
The new law applies to nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions, in an employment agreement, that try to silence what a Washington worker may say about certain conduct in the workplace.
The Silenced No More Act makes any provision in an agreement between an employer and an employee “void and unenforceable” if it asks an employee not to disclose or discuss “conduct,” or the existence of a settlement involving conduct, that the employee reasonably believes is: “illegal discrimination, illegal harassment, illegal retaliation, a wage and hour violation, or sexual assault.”
What Does the Law Say About Where the Workplace Conduct Must Occur?
The new law applies to nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions concerning “conduct” that occurs:
- At the workplace,
- At a work-related event coordinated by or through the employer,
- Between employees, or
- Between an employer and an employee, whether on or off the employment premises.
How Does the Act Define “Employee”?
The law defines an “employee” as a current, former, or prospective employee or independent contractor.
What Specific Agreements Does the Silenced No More Act Apply To?
The Act applies to nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions used in employment agreements, independent contractor agreements, agreements to pay compensation in exchange for the release of a legal claim, and any other agreements between an employer and an employee.
Are There Penalties for Violating the Act?
Yes. An employer that violates the new law may be liable in a civil cause of action for actual or statutory damages of $10,000, whichever is more. The employer may also face paying for a party’s reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
When Does the New Law Go into Effect?
The law goes into effect on June 9, 2022. But it does apply retroactively in certain situations. The latter means that employers should start to act now to ensure their agreements comply with the law’s mandates.
What Should an Employer Do?
An employer that employs a Washington employee should take critical steps now in light of the new law. These include:
- Review and update your employment agreements with nondisclosure and/or nondisparagement provisions to make sure they fall in line with the new requirements,
- Train your staff to help ensure they are properly educated on the new requirements, and
- Consult with a skilled employment attorney to make sure you fully understand all of the Silenced No More Act’s directives.
Contact The McWilliams Law Group for Help
When you are ready to open a new business or take your current business to the next level, the lawyers at The McWilliams Law Group are here to help. We can help ensure that your operations are in full compliance with all of Washington’s employment laws. Our attorneys work closely with business owners throughout Washington, providing individualized and strategic advice to help their businesses run smoothly. Contact us now and get the skilled business advice that you deserve.