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VIDEO: Hirono-Sponsored Legislation to Protect Survivors of Sexual Assault and Harassment Passes Out of Senate Judiciary Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance legislation sponsored by Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) to limit the enforceability of non-disclosure agreements and non-disparagement agreements (NDAs) where a sexual harassment or sexual assault dispute arises and survivors wish to break their silence. The bipartisan, bicameral Speak Out Act now advances to the full Senate.

“This bill will provide survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault who have signed a predispute NDA with the option to tell their story, because for too long, survivors have been denied the option by people in power…who used NDAs to cover up sexual assault,” Senator Hirono said during the Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill. “Survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault deserve better than being forced into silence, and I am going to work to pass this bill on the Senate floor to make sure survivors can break this silence.”        

Under current law, individuals and 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 the workforce entirely.

Specifically, the Speak Out Act would:

  1. Prohibit the use of predispute NDAs between employers and current, former, and prospective employees, as well as independent contractors;
  2. Prohibit the use of predispute NDAs between providers of goods and services and consumers, and;
  3. Allow States to enact additional protections beyond the Speak Out Act’s protections—setting a floor not a ceiling for restricting NDA enforceability.

In addition to Senator Hirono, the bipartisan, bicameral Speak Out Act was introduced by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).  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.