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California just made it a lot harder for companies to cover up harassment and abuse

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Silenced No More Act to protect whistleblowers in California

Gov. Gavin Newsom School Visit Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

California governor Gavin Newsom signed the Silenced No More Act on Thursday night— a historic piece of legislation, authored by state senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), that should protect workers who speak out about harassment and discrimination even if they’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Pinterest whistleblower Ifeoma Ozoma began pushing the bill forward last year, after coming forward with allegations of racism against the tech company. She knew she was partially protected by the Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures Act, a Me Too-era law that banned NDAs in sexual harassment cases, but soon realized the bill did not provide protections for other forms of abuse.

Now, that’s changing. Workers in California will be legally protected for speaking out about discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry, disability, and age. You can see the changes in detail here.

The law could have enormous implications for the tech industry, which is famous for having workers sign extremely restrictive NDAs. While it will only protect employees in California, Ozoma has plans to expand it to other parts of the United States.

The bill is sponsored by the California Employment Lawyers Association, Ozoma’s organization Earthseed, and Equal Rights Advocates. It will take effect on January 1st, 2022.

Pinterest agreed to proactively stop making workers sign NDAs that kept them from discussing “their personal experiences at Pinterest” back in April, after Ozoma’s accusations but months ahead of the law’s passage. Apple, however, refused to add language to its employment agreements to make it clear that employees could discuss workplace harassment and discrimination, after activists and Apple shareholders pressured the company with a shareholder resolution.