Former Apple employee inspires Washington State action to curb NDAs

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A former Apple employee who filed a whistleblower complaint related to Apple’s use of confidentiality agreements (NDAs) inspired draft law in Washington state aimed at preventing companies from using NDAs in resolving harassment and discrimination claims restrict in the workplace.

The Washington state bill follows a similar law in California.

Washington State Senator Karen Keizer and Rep. Liz Berry, both Democrats, are working in their respective houses on bills to be introduced in the next legislature, their offices confirmed this week.

Cher Scarlett, a former Apple employee and Washington state resident who played a leading role in labor activism, said she reached out to Keizer in October to raise awareness about the issue.

“No worker should be deterred from sharing their deeply personal story of harassment or discrimination in the workplace just for signing an NDA,” Berry said in a statement to Reuters.

NDAs are commonplace in the tech industry. Some employees have claimed that technology giants are using the agreements to prevent legally protected activities such as discussions about working conditions.

In September, investor Nia Impact Capital tabled a shareholder proposal calling on Apple’s board of directors to “prepare a public report outlining the potential risks to the company associated with the use of obfuscation clauses related to harassment, discrimination and others illegal acts are assessed ”.

Apple filed a response to the US Securities and Exchange Commission in October saying it wanted to rule out the proposal because “the company’s policy is not to use such clauses.”

After reading Apple’s response, Scarlett said she filed a whistleblower complaint with the SEC in October alleging that Apple provided false and misleading information to the regulator. She also shared documents with Nia Impact Capital.

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

Apple declined to comment. The company previously stated that it is “deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace”.

The Washington bill mirrors the Silenced No More Act, which was signed in California this year and co-funded by tech whistleblower Ifeoma Ozoma.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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