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Legislation Awaiting New Jersey Governor’s Signature Would Expand Protections for Employees Victimized by Harassment or Discrimination

If you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment or discrimination at work, you may be entitled to sue and receive compensation for the damages that you suffered. That you may have already known. You also have the right to settle your action out of court, in which you receive a payment from the other side in exchange for your dismissing your case. This, too, you may have already known. What you may not have known, however, is that New Jersey in on the cusp of changing the way that settlements in these situations are drawn up. Specifically, the state is close to enacting a law that would make any provisions in such agreements that require the harassed or discriminated employee to remain silent to be unenforceable.

As has reported in early February, the bill that would erect such a rule has passed both houses and needs only Governor Murphy’s signature. Back in 2017, the legislative body proposed similar legislation banning so-called “gag” or non-disclosure provisions in cases involving sexual harassment and discrimination. That bill did not become law.

The state senate tried again in 2018, proposing Senate Bill 121. Senate Bill 121’s enactment into law would mean that New Jersey workers would have one of the broadest umbrellas of protection against these sorts of non-disclosure agreements, protecting all workers asserting any kind of claim of discrimination, harassment or retaliation under the Law Against Discrimination.

The bill would also make unenforceable provisions that require harassed or discriminated employees to agree to waive “any substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment,” which could greatly curtail employers’ options for forcing employees to arbitrate, as opposed to litigating in court, their claims of harassment, discrimination or retaliation under the Law Against Discrimination.

The end of these non-disclosure agreements can potentially be a great benefit to harmed employees. Under the old law, an employee who signed such an agreement, but then later spoke up, could be liable for repaying her settlement or even facing a lawsuit. With such non-disclosure provisions declared unenforceable, that employee would be free to divulge her information.

How exactly might this help you? Imagine, for example, that you were sexually harassed by your supervisor. You sue and, in the course of the pre-trial process, you discover that your supervisor engaged in similar behavior previously with three other subordinates and that, each time, the employer settled with the harmed employees and took no adverse action against the supervisor. Proof that your employer knew that your supervisor was a serial harasser and still continued to employ him, with no adverse action against him, might help entitle you to a larger award of damages. Having these non-disclosure agreements declared unenforceable could help immensely in securing that information and getting that important evidence before the court in your case.

While the law overall is often slow to change, there are changes in the law that happen all the time. To give yourself the best chance at the success you need, you need legal representation from attorneys who have both in-depth and up-to-date knowledge on the kinds of legal issues your case presents. The skilled New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates are dedicated to helping you get what you deserve from your harassment, discrimination or retaliation case. Contact us to find out more about your options. Reach us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

The Many and Varied Potential Forms of Harassment that Can Happen at Holiday Parties in New Jersey, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Dec. 26, 2018

New Jersey Legislature Considers a Bill that Would Ban Non-Disclosure Agreements in Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Cases, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Dec. 4, 2017

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