STAND Act Advances #MeToo Movement By Banning NDA's In Harassment and Discrimination Cases

Leigh Giangreco
Leigh Giangreco is a reporter covering culture, politics and news. Her work has appeared in outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and Washington City Paper.
STAND Act Advances #MeToo Movement By Banning NDA's In Harassment and Discrimination Cases
Photo by Joel Durkee on Unsplash

After a long fight spearheaded by California tech workers and State Senator Connie Leyva, the California Legislature on Monday passed the "Silenced No More Act," which would expand workplace harassment protections for employees.


Senate Bill 331, which now heads to Governor Gavin Newsom's desk and will take effect next year if signed, would prevent the use of non-disparagement and non-disclosure clauses as part of a severance agreement following any workplace discrimination and harassment. The bill builds on an existing law also authored by Leyva and passed in the wake of the #MeToo movement that bans confidentiality agreements in cases of sexual harassment, discrimination and assault. That law, the Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures (STAND) Act, did not cover harassment related to racism, an issue that hit home for tech workers like Ifeoma Ozoma, one of the bill's co-sponsors.

A former public policy manager at Pinterest, Ozoma claims she was pushed out of the company in March 2020 and presented with a non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreement. She broke her NDA months later, alleging she and her Black colleagues faced racism and wage discrimination at Pinterest. She soon teamed up with Leyva, the California Employment Lawyers Association and Equal Rights Advocates to draft legislation that would cover all forms of discrimination and harassment, including racial claims.

"For me personally, I'm feeling the weight of all this because it's been a long year-and-a-half and I've worked really hard on this bill," Ozoma said, her voice cracking with emotion. "I'm more proud of it than anything else I've worked on, so I'm just really happy."

Mariko Yoshihara, legislative counsel and policy director at the California Employment Lawyers Association, told dot.LA Ozoma's story highlighted how discrimination and harassment often happen intersectionally.

"We have multiple identities and you often can't separate those different characteristics," Yoshihara said. "So for her to have an NDA that just covered race-based discrimination but she was free to talk about gender discrimination doesn't make sense because she was discriminated against because she was a Black woman, not just because she was Black."

If signed into law, the Silenced No More Act would protect workers negotiating settlements and severance following any workplace harassment. In effect, that means an employee who had signed a nondisparagement clause as a condition of a severance agreement can still speak up about unlawful conduct including harassment and discrimination, Yoshihara said.

The bill cleared passage in the State Assembly last week after the California Chamber of Commerce dropped its opposition to the bill. The business advocacy group had expressed concerns with language in the original legislation regarding the ability to keep confidential the amount of severance being offered, but those were assuaged with the amended version, according to Ashley Hoffman, policy advocate for the chamber.

Ozoma was especially sanguine about the prospect of similar legislation passing at the federal level.

"It's a pretty big first step to have 40 million people protected but as far as first steps go, I hope it lays the groundwork and provides sample text even for other states for an eventual federal bill," she said. "I believe California is a trend-setter with legislation because there are so many industries based in the state...if you can pass something with billion dollar opposition that would have waged opposition, there's no reason why you can't pass this everywhere."

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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