Washington Bans NDAs That Silence Employee Speech About Workplace Misconduct

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

March 29, 2022

Washington employers will soon be prohibited from requiring or asking employees to sign provisions that bar them from disclosing a range of illegal actions in the workplace.

The "Silenced No More Act" makes unlawful and void nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements (NDAs) that prohibits an employee from disclosing or discussing conduct the employee reasonably believes to be:

  • Harassment;
  • Discrimination;
  • Retaliation;
  • Wage and hour violations;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Illegal under state, federal, or common law; or
  • Against public policy.

Provisions prohibiting the disclosure of the amount paid in settlement of a claim are permitted, as are provisions protecting trade secrets, proprietary information or confidential information that does not involve illegal acts.

The law is expansive in its scope. Agreements include "employment agreements, independent contractor agreements, agreements to pay compensation in exchange for the release of a legal claim, or any other agreement between an employer and an employee." Covered employees include any current, former or prospective employee or independent contractor.

In addition, the law covers conduct that occurs at the workplace or at work-related events, whether on or off the employment premises, and applies retroactively to agreements signed before the effective date of the law. The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for disclosing or discussing conduct covered by the law.

Washington is the second state to pass such a law, following California. The law will go into effect on June 8, 2022.