Senate Approves Measure to ‘Remove the Veil of Secrecy’
Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Nia Gill that would make non-disclosure agreements in employment contracts and settlement agreements in cases of discrimination, retaliation or harassment – including sexual assault and sexual harassment – unenforceable against employees, was approved by the Senate today.
“Non-disclosure agreements have been used to silence and intimidate the victims of sexual assault and harassment,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “Too many victims have been forced to suffer in silence for far too long while the abusers went unpunished as they preyed on more women. Limiting these so-called ‘confidentiality agreements’ will help lift the secrecy that allowed the abuses to continue.”
“Employees and employers may still want to enter into non-disclosure agreements, but those agreements cannot be created to silence employees who have been victims of harassment, discrimination or sexual assault,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic).
The bill, S-121, would prohibit provisions in employment contracts that waive the rights of victims and make employment contracts that require employees to conceal details relating to these types of claims unenforceable against employees. If the employee publicly reveals enough information to identify the employer, the entity would be free to discuss the case as well.
The NDAs were used in cases involving Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Larry Nasser, Bill Cosby and President Donald Trump, among others. There were settlements between Weinstein and at least eight women who accused him of sexual harassment or assault. Employees at The Weinstein Company were required to sign NDAs in order to work there, and Weinstein reached multiple settlements with women that included confidentiality clauses.
“These secret settlements can ultimately endanger the public by hiding sexual predators from law enforcement and the public,” said Senator Weinberg. “They are being used by those who have the money to pay.”
The NDAs are features of settlements through which the aggrieved party agrees not to pursue litigation or discuss terms of the deal in exchange for a sum of money. If the NDA is violated, the other party may sue for injunctive relief, which would stop the release of information, and recover damages.
The bill was approved by a vote of 34-1, and will advance to the governor pending approval by the Assembly.