Hirono Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Prohibit Non-Disclosure Agreements in Cases of Sexual Misconduct
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to introduce the Speak Out Act, a bipartisan bill that would prohibit predispute non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in instances in which sexual harassment or sexual assault has been alleged in violation of federal, tribal, or state law and in situations in which survivors wish to break their silence.
“For too long, non-disclosure agreements have been abused to silence survivors of sexual assault and harassment and protect those who perpetrate these crimes,” said Senator Hirono. “The use of NDAs to stop survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment from telling their stories should be limited. This legislation works to do just that, and builds on the progress made by the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act signed into law earlier this year. This bill will help survivors come forward so that those responsible can be held accountable. I am glad to join my colleagues in leading this bipartisan, bicameral legislation that aims to finally end this harmful, toxic system.”
Under current law, organizations can use NDAs to prevent survivors of sexual harassment or assault 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 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.
The House companion bill was introduced by Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Ken Buck (R-CO).
Senator Hirono is a strong advocate for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, and consistently works to advance legislation to protect survivors. She cosponsored the bipartisan Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, which prevents perpetrators from being able to push survivors of sexual harassment and assault into the secretive, biased process of forced arbitration, and was signed into law earlier this year.
Senator Hirono has also worked to end sexual harassment and assault in the military. Since 2013, she has championed the Military Justice Improvement Act to establish an impartial, fair, and accountable military justice system to address sexual assault. In 2020, she introduced the I am Vanessa Guillen Act to remove decisions about prosecuting cases of sexual harassment and assault from the chain of command. This past April, she introduced the Sexual Harassment Independent Investigations and Prosecutions (SHIIP) Act, a bill containing key provisions of the I am Vanessa Guillen Act not included in the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act.
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