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New Jersey Legislature Considers a Bill that Would Ban Non-Disclosure Agreements in Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Cases

Legal News GavelMost people in the country have, over the last several weeks, become familiar with the Harvey Weinstein story. Multiple accusers have alleged that the Hollywood producer sexually assaulted or harassed them. Some were actresses, while others were assistants who worked for the producer. Several of these allegations date back to the early to mid-1990s. Some have asked why the producer’s alleged victims waited years, and even decades, to speak out. While there are numerous reasons why a victim might delay in speaking out publicly, for some, there was a very black-and-white one:  they reached a settlement of their legal claims against the producer, and one of the terms of those agreements was their silence. If you are a victim of New Jersey sexual harassment or sex discrimination, potential settlements are one area in which an experienced attorney can be invaluable. Your experienced counsel can help you assess whether a settlement is in your best interest and, if you were to sign, exactly what your contractual obligations would be under that agreement.

A non-disclosure term is a common clause in almost any settlement agreement that resolves the potential legal claims one party might have against another party. The potential defendant pays the potential plaintiff a sum of money, the plaintiff forever gives up her right to sue, and both sides agree never to discuss the confidential details of the agreement. If a bill currently under consideration in the New Jersey legislature becomes law, that process may change in this state when it comes to sexual harassment and discrimination cases. State Sen. Loretta Weinberg proposed SB 3581, a bill that would prohibit employers from using non-disclosure provisions to keep victims of workplace sexual harassment from speaking up, according to an nj.com report.

The bill, as proposed, would not only bar employers from setting up such non-disclosure agreements when the victim was one of sexual harassment, but also apply to any situation in which the employee was a victim of a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The bill would clarify the law to establish explicitly that a non-disclosure agreement in this type of scenario is against New Jersey public policy and, as a result, is unenforceable.

The bill would do more than just ban mandatory non-disclosure in these situations. The bill also states that any agreement provision that “waives any substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment shall be deemed against public policy and unenforceable.” This paragraph of the bill raises the distinct possibility that, if this bill becomes law without changes, an employer might not be able to enforce a mandatory arbitration agreement if the employee’s lawsuit alleges violations of the Law Against Discrimination. Some employers force employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements as a term of employment (or continued employment) and then use those provisions to force employees’ discrimination or sexual harassment cases into arbitration hearings and away from court trials.

The hardworking New Jersey sexual harassment and discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates are dedicated to helping workers hurt by employers that have engaged in illegal discrimination or sexual harassment. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation. Talk to one of our attorneys to find out how we can help you protect your rights.

More blog posts:

Job-Related Holiday Parties, Alcohol, and Sexual Harassment in New Jersey, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Dec. 4, 2017

Your Employer’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies and Your New Jersey Employment Litigation, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Sept. 6, 2017

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