Whistleblower pushes bill to limit use of NDAs in workplace settlements

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Whistleblower pushes bill to limit use of NDAs in workplace settlements

A former Apple employee who had filed a whistleblower complaint about Apple's use of non-disclosure agreements NDAs has inspired legislation in Washington state that seeks to limit the use of NDAs in settlements of workplace harassment and discrimination claims.

The measure comes on the heels of similar legislation in California.

Washington State Senator Karen Keiser and Representative Liz Berry are working on bills in their own houses that they plan to introduce in the next legislative session, their offices confirmed this week.

Cher Scarlett, a former Apple employee and Washington resident who has played a leading role in worker activism, reached out to Keiser in October to raise awareness about the issue. The lawmaker wrote about Chelsey Glasson, a former Google employee who sued for pregnancy discrimination. Keiser said the outreach from both women inspired him to pursue the bill, an aide to Keiser said.

Berry said that no worker shouldn't be silenced from sharing their deeply personal story of harassment or discrimination in the workplace just because they signed an NDA.

NDAs are commonplace in the technology industry. Some employees have alleged that tech giants use them to discourage legally protected activities, such as discussions of working conditions.

In September, the shareholder proposal was filed by Nia Impact Capital calling for Apple's board to prepare a public report on the risks associated with its use of concealment clauses in the context of harassment, discrimination and other unlawful acts. In October Apple filed a response to the US Securities and Exchange Commission saying it wanted to exclude the proposal because of the company's policy to not use such clauses. After viewing Apple's response, Scarlett filed an SEC whistleblower complaint in October alleging that Apple had made false and misleading statements to the regulators. She shared documents with Nia Impact Capital.

Scarlett, who left Apple last week, said she decided to go public with that information this week, in violation of the terms of her settlement with Apple. Business Insider first reported details of her story.

Apple didn't want to say anything. The company has previously said it is committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. The legislation in Washington echoes the Silenced No More Act, signed into law this year in California and co-sponsored by tech whistleblower Ifeoma Ozoma.