A former Apple employee inspires the state of Washington to take action to curb NDAs

The Apple Inc logo will be displayed outside the company’s 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, USA on June 13, 2016. REUTERS / Stephen Lam

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SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 24 (Reuters) – A former Apple Inc (AAPL.O) employee who had filed a whistleblower complaint regarding Apple’s use of privacy statements (NDAs) has inspired a bill in the state of Washington seeking to restrict corporate ‘use of NDAs in conciliation regarding claims of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

The measure comes on the heels of similar legislation in California.

Washington State Senator Karen Keizer and Representative Liz Berry, both Democrats, are working on bills in their respective houses, which they plan to introduce in the next legislative session, their offices confirmed this week.

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Cher Scarlett, a former Apple employee and resident of Washington who has played a leading role in labor activism, said she went out to Keizer in October to raise awareness of the issue. Chelsey Glasson, a former Google (GOOGL.O) employee who sued for pregnancy discrimination, also wrote the lawsuit. The outreach efforts of both women helped inspire Keizer to pursue the bill, an aide to Keizer said.

“No worker should be silent about sharing their deeply personal history of harassment or discrimination in the workplace simply because they have signed an NDA,” Berry said in a statement.

NDAs are common in the technology industry. Some employees have claimed that technology giants use them to discourage legally protected activities such as discussions about working conditions.

In September, investor Nia Impact Capital filed a shareholder proposal urging Apple’s board of directors to prepare a “public report assessing the potential risks to the company with its use of secrecy clauses in connection with harassment, discrimination and other illegal acts.”

Apple filed a response with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in October, saying it wanted to exclude the proposal because “the company’s policy is not to use such clauses.”

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

Scarlett, who left Apple last week, said she decided to publish this information this week, in violation of the terms of her settlement with Apple. Business Insider first reported details on her story.

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

The draft law in Washington reflects the Silenced No More Act, which was signed into law this year in California and co-sponsored by tech whistleblower Ifeoma Ozoma.

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Reporting by Julia Love; Edited by Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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