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States moving to end sexual harassment confidentiality agreements
One of many disturbing practices that has come to light in the #MeToo movement is the use of confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) to settle sexual harassment cases. The victims are given money in a settlement in exchange for signing an agreement that they’re told forbids them from disclosing the harassment. These agreements have allowed powerful men to keep their jobs and reputations and continue to harass women.
Movie producer Harvey Weinstein reportedly made use of elaborate NDAs to keep his victims from speaking out. One attorney called an agreement she saw “perhaps the most usurious one I have seen in decades of practice.”
Legislators in at least 16 states across the country have drafted laws to prevent private employers from requiring that a complainant sign an NDA in cases involving alleged sexual harassment. Arizona is one of six states where laws restricting their use in these cases have already been enacted.
The new Arizona law allows victims to go to the police and testify in court about their alleged assailant even if they previously signed an NDA. In New York, no sexual harassment settlement may include a confidentiality agreement unless the complainant agrees to sign one.
One employment attorney argues that a ban on NDAs in these cases could make employers less likely to settle them. That could mean alleged victims would have to take the company to court, where the outcome would be less certain. However, as one of the alleged victims of former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly notes, if more women knew about the harassment going on in their workplaces, they might be better able to band together to fight it.
If you’re being told that you’re required to sign an NDA that you believe may not be legal or that you have other concerns about, or if you’ve already signed one and you have questions about your rights now, it’s wise to seek the guidance of an experienced Arizona employment law attorney.