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Sexual Harassment and NDAs at Bay Area Tech Companies

Sexual Harassment and NDAs at Bay Area Tech Companies

Sexual harassment is a problem in many different types of workplaces. The tech industry, in particular, is often in the news for toxic work environments that give rise to the unlawful treatment of employees. 

Silicon Valley tech companies like Google and Apple have faced their share of sexual harassment allegations over the past few years. In one of the biggest cases from 2021, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued game developer Activision Blizzard for sexual harassment. Women at the company claimed male employees subjected them to years of humiliation and physical harassment. The allegations resulted in a mass staff walkout and resignations from top executives. 

Many tech companies have relied on non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence employees and keep allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination hidden from the public. This practice, however, is set to change after California passed the Silenced No More Act in 2021.

An NDA is a legal document through which two or more parties agree to keep information confidential and prevent it from being disclosed to others. The law, which went into effect in January 2022, renders NDAs useless in cases of workplace harassment and discrimination. It provides Bay Area tech employees with stronger protections, allowing them to speak out about harassment even if they sign NDAs.

The law also bans employers from adding broad confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses to settlement agreements. It urges tech companies to adopt transparency in their employment contractsWorkers who agree to settlements with companies in workplace harassment cases will no longer have to remain quiet about what they experienced. 

In a recent ruling, a judge decided that Tesla could not use arbitration as a shield to protect itself from sexual harassment allegations. A female worker filed a lawsuit accusing Tesla of “rampant” sexual harassment at the company’s Fremont factory. Although the employee signed an arbitration agreement with her employer, giving up her right to sue Tesla, the judge has allowed the lawsuit to proceed in court.

According to Women Who Tech, a nonprofit organization, 48 percent of women employees in tech have experienced harassment compared to 11 percent of men. For 76 percent of women, the harassment occurred at the hands of a coworker, while 42 percent said a supervisor was responsible for the unwanted behavior.

A key issue that plays a role in workplace sexual harassment is the systemic gender imbalances that exist in the tech industry, which has traditionally been male-dominated. For example, women are still underrepresented in leadership positions. A TrustRadius report found that 72 percent of women in tech have worked for a company that has a “pervasive” “bro culture,” which can range from an “uncomfortable work environment to sexual harassment.”

Tech CEOs and bosses who engage in sexual harassment should be held accountable for their actions. Additionally, those in power should set an example that workplace harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.

Sexual harassment can take many different forms. Women Who Tech found that the most common type of harassment among women working in tech was offensive jokes, followed by unwanted physical contact, sexual slurs and propositions for sex.

While some tech companies have enacted new policies to address sexual harassment in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement, others can do more. Employers have a duty to ensure the safety of employees. This includes making sure workers have proper, trusted channels to report workplace harassment so that they are not afraid to speak out. According to Women Who Tech, 67 percent of women in tech do not trust their company’s handling of harassment allegations, compared to half of men in tech.

There are many reasons workers may be scared to speak out about sexual harassment, such as the fear of retaliation or how their job or reputation will be affected. Some employees may not report harassment because they believe they lack enough evidence or that the employer will not take their complaints seriously.

If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the San Francisco Bay Area, help is available. Contact an experienced Oakland employment lawyer to discuss your situation and find out about your legal options. Erlich Law Firm is dedicated to protecting the rights of tech workers and other employees who suffer unlawful treatment at work.

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Erlich Law Firm, P.C.

Erlich Law Firm was established to protect the rights of employees. Jason Erlich has extensive experience in all aspects of employment law, and has helped more than one thousand workers to reclaim their rights. We treat all our clients with respect and do our best to handle their legal concerns in a manner that serves your interests. We keep you informed about legal progress made, explain the sequence of legal steps involved, let you know what to expect, and keep you apprised of important legal timelines. From the outset of your case to its resolution, our Oakland employment attorneys are committed to protecting your interests and helping you achieve your desired objectives.Call today to speak... View full business profile here: Erlich Law Firm, P.C.

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