An Employer’s Primer on the Speak Out Act


Speak Out Act

By: Tia J. Combs

On December 7, 2022, President Biden signed the Speak Out Act (S. 4524; Public Law No. 117-224). As the law is effective immediately, employers must act quickly to understand how the new law may impact their businesses.

What the Law Prohibits

The law prohibits nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements concerning sexual assault or sexual harassment entered into prior to a claim arising. Therefore, any nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements signed by employees at the time of employment (or at any time prior to that employee’s complaint about sexual assault or sexual harassment) are voided by the new law. The law is designed to remove any prohibition on reporting sexual harassment or sexual assault under such agreements.

What the Law Does Not Prohibit

The law does not prohibit post-dispute nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements. Notably, nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements accompanying severance agreements or other settlements of claims or cases are still valid. The law also applies only to claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment; there continues to be no Federal prohibition on nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements concerning discrimination claims (e.g., age, race, color, religion, and national origin). The law also does not affect or limit preexisting state laws that might provide similar, but stronger, protection for employees. Indeed, several states have such laws already, including California, Illinois, Maryland, and Vermont. Importantly, the law expressly states that it does not limit the protection of trade secrets or proprietary information. As such, nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements concerning these issues are still as valid and enforceable as they were prior to the passing of the new law.

What Employers Should Do

Employers should review and update employment agreements, handbooks, and other policies, to remove any provisions that might violate the new law.

For more information or assistance with updating employment agreements and policies, please contact Tia Combs at, or your local FMG attorney.