Story at a glance:
- A new bill to ease strict nondisclosure agreement (NDA) forms might come to California.
- NDAs can prevent people from speaking out about sexual or racial harassment.
- The bill stemmed from a dispute between an employee and the social media company she used to work for.
Ifeoma Ozoma broke her nondisclosure agreement (NDA) with her former employer, Pinterest, after she felt the need to call out what she considered the company’s hypocrisy on Black Lives Matter.
On June 15, when national protests for Black equality were heightened following to a series of police brutalities, Ozoma, who left her role as a public policy manager, said she experienced racial discrimination at Pinterest. This company claims it is aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement, The Guardian reported.
To go public with her truth, Ozoma did what most would not do, take on one of the tech giants in the social media industry.
“I knew I might be sued into bankruptcy, but I cared more about setting the record straight on the hypocrisy of it,” she said.
She co-sponsored California legislation called the Silence No More Act, a bill that would enable employees to tell their truths about workplace discrimination or harassment regardless of any signed agreements.
The bill passed the state senate and is headed for the assembly, where if it passes it will await Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) signature.
“Coming forward should not be as painful, and should not carry as much risk for someone, as it currently does,” Ozoma said. “This bill is meant to change that.”
The fear of breaking an NDA’s terms of condition has historically prevented women from alerting the public about allegations.
Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein had more than 80 female accusers under restrictive contracts.
“The contracts people were outraged about are nearly identical to what we see in the tech world,” she said. “I think [NDA]s have been left behind because they are used to protect powerful people everywhere,” Ozumo said.
Pinterest declined to comment to The Guardian on its use of NDAs or on Ozumo, but it sent a statement from founder and CEO Ben Silbermann that read, “Pinterest supports the Silenced No More Act, a workplace protection bill that encourages transparency and expands protections for employees who speak out about their experiences with workplace discrimination. We want every employee to feel safe, championed and empowered to raise any concerns about their work experience.”
A co-author of the Silenced No More Act is state Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Calif.), who said the bill would “empower survivors and help to hold perpetrators accountable for their intolerable actions,” extending to all industries that require such agreements in the state – including tech and entertainment.
“It is unacceptable that workers would be forced to stay silent after being subjected to this atrocious behavior, especially when mandatory silence only serves to perpetuate the culture of secrecy that allows abusers to continue tormenting and abusing other workers,” Leyva said.
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