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Saturday, May 21, 2022

House OKs Tanzi bill forbidding employers from requiring gag orders on civil rights violations

If enacted, law breakers won't be able to hide behind non-disclosure clauses

The House of Representatives approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi prohibiting employers from requiring employees to sign nondisclosure or nondisparagement agreements regarding alleged violations of civil rights at work.

“Nondisclosure agreements are gag orders that silence victims and whistleblowers. No one should be legally required to stay silent about abuses they’ve suffered or witnessed at work. Requiring NDAs like that as a condition of employment is, in itself, an abuse because it’s a requirement that employees sign away their own civil rights,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). 

“It’s also a disservice to the public, because it’s aimed at helping employers prevent public knowledge of questionable or even illegal actions they may undertake. That’s really point of the type of NDAs we are prohibiting — the ones that prioritize the employer’s image and bottom line above the civil rights of employees or the right of the public to know about illegal actions.”

The legislation (2022-H 7905A) forbids employers from requiring as a condition of employment any nondisclosure or nondisparagement agreement regarding alleged violations of civil rights as a condition of employment. The bill also voids any contract such provision already in place.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) is sponsoring companion legislation (2022-S 2124).

The House bill is cosponsored by Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown), Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), Rep. Leonela Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket), Rep. Michelle E. McGaw (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton), Rep. José Batista (D-Dist. 12, Providence), Rep. Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence) and Rep. Rebecca Kislak (D-Dist. 4, Providence).