In late February, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that companies cannot require employees to waive their rights as part of a severance agreement.

The decision, says the NLRB, restored an “important principle and longstanding precedent” that employees cannot be coerced into waiving their rights. The decision concerned a Michigan hospital that terminated 11 union employees during the COVID 19 pandemic and asked them to sign a severance agreement barring them from publicly disparaging the company.

In 2020, under the Trump-appointed chief, the NLRB twice ruled that limiting speech in instances like this were legal, arguing in one decision that severance agreements with no disparagement clauses are “entirely voluntary.”

The current NLRB, however, overruled that decision.

In a statement, NLRB Chairperson Lauren McFerran said that “employers cannot ask individual employees to choose between receiving benefits and exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.” ■