California Workers Can Call Out Boss's Bad Behavior Without Fear of Losing Pay, Benefits

A new California law permits employees to speak out publicly about a boss's harassment or discriminatory behavior without risking a loss of pay or benefits, according to the Associated Press.

A 2018 state law banned companies from forcing workers who settle sexual harassment, assault or discrimination cases to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Such agreements were a way to silence victims and shield serial offenders from consequences.

The new law, signed Thursday by Governor Gavin Newsom, bans such secret settlements for other types of discrimination cases, including those based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation, the AP said.

California Senator Connie Leyva authored the law, naming it the "Silenced No More Act."

"California workers should absolutely be able to speak out—if they so wish—when they are a victim of any type of harassment or discrimination in the workplace," Leyva said in a statement. "It is unconscionable that an employer would ever want or seek to silence the voices of survivors that have been subjected to racist, sexist, homophobic or other attacks at work."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Sexual Assault in Workplace
A new California law will allow workers to call out a boss's bad behavior without fear of losing pay or benefits. Above, Google employees stage a walkout over sexual harassment on November 1, 2018, in New York. BRYAN R. SMITH/Getty Images

Other states, including Arizona, New Jersey, New Mexico and Tennessee, also have laws that ban nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases. But Leyva's office has said California is the first state to ban these nondisclosure agreements as part of severance packages when a worker leaves the company.

The law is significant in California, home to some of the world's largest and most influential technology companies. The legislation was inspired in part by two Black women who accused Pinterest, the San Francisco-based social media company, of wage discrimination and retaliation.

The women, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, settled their complaints and left the company. But when they decided to speak publicly about their experiences, California law protected them only if they spoke about the gender discrimination portion of their complaint, not the racial discrimination.

Pinterest's co-founder and CEO has said he supports the law.

California's law has some exceptions. Companies would still be required to keep employees' names secret and not release any information that could identify them, but only if the employee asks companies to do that. The law says companies can't require employees to keep quiet.