Eliminating Language that Silences Workers’ Voices

Initiative Lift Our Voices
Grantee Partner Lift Our Voices

Every worker deserves a voice. By 2024, more than 82 million American workers will be silenced by forced arbitration, and will never be able to share their toxic workplace experiences. Additionally, over one-third of the U.S. workforce is bound by non-disclosure agreements that do not allow them to speak up about discrimination at their jobs. Sometimes employees are silenced on their first day of work.

In recent decades, arbitration clauses and non-disclosure agreements — once intended only to protect trade secrets — have been weaponized to silence American workers from speaking out about workplace toxicity. While these silencing mechanisms disproportionately affect women and people of color, they come at great cost to the entire economy, reducing diversity and productivity, robbing companies of talent, and driving millions out of the workforce. When workers are silenced, inequality persists and the abusers perpetuate their behavior without recourse.

Lift Our Voices (LOV) was founded in 2019 to give voice to those whom current policies and practices have rendered voiceless. Spearheaded by Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky, the mission of LOV is simple: to transform the American workplace, making it safer and more equitable for everyone. Gender equality in the workplace cannot be addressed until we eradicate the widespread culture of silencing that prevents American workers from speaking up about gender discrimination, sexual harassment, misogyny, and other toxic behavior.

In 2022, LOV’s advocacy efforts achieved two major legislative milestones with the bipartisan passage of two federal bills hailed as among “the biggest labor law changes in the last 100 years.” President Biden signed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 (H.R. 4445) into law in March 2022, eliminating the harmful use of forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment and assault. The Speak Out Act (S. 4524) was signed into law by President Biden in December 2022. This new law bans pre-dispute non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements for sexual assault and harassment.

Following the passing of federal legislation that allows anyone to take perpetrators to court following sexual misconduct in the workplace, LOV created a Know Your Rights campaign and video so everyone can know more about this important change – and about what still needs to be done to extend this protection to other forms of discrimination.

Lift Our Voices continues to advocate for further changes to federal and state laws to protect women, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and all workers from workplace discrimination and abuse, and allow them the freedom and choice to seek justice and accountability. LOV believes in transforming the American workplace into one where everyone can simply work with dignity.

Lift Our Voices is laser-focused on eradicating these silencing mechanisms through four pillars of work. We educate the public, law makers and stakeholders about the effects of these silencing mechanisms. Through research, we are studying both qualitative and quantitative effects of these silencing mechanisms and the intersectionality of those concealment clauses that impact workers. We advocate at the federal and state level for policy change, and lastly, we are training the next generation of leaders. We work with universities to teach and empower students to understand their rights as they are entering the workforce.

During my time at Google, I led one of the largest employee walkouts globally, to protest forced arbitration clauses in workers’ contracts. I support Lift Our Voices efforts to make sure all disenfranchised groups are protected from being silenced about toxic workplace environments.

TANUJA GUPTA, Activist, Law Student, Engineering Program Manager (xGoogler)