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Sexual Harassment and Confidentiality Agreements in New Jersey

Recent events in the news have triggered a great deal of re-examination when it comes to sexual harassment. One area where that is true is the use of confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements against employees who have alleged being victims of sexual harassment. The state Senate recently contemplated, and passed, a bill that would greatly enhance the protection of harassed workers in this type of circumstance. While New Jersey has not yet banned the use of confidentiality agreements in the resolution of sexual harassment cases, you may have certain options available to you if you’ve signed an agreement in your case but desire not to remain silent. As always, be sure to retain an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney to assess your options.

Recently these issues of sexual harassment and confidentiality were at the center of a lawsuit. A state government employee allegedly was sexually harassed by a supervisor. After the harassment took place, the employee complained. An investigation was launched but the employer’s investigator allegedly did not complete a full and proper investigation into the employee’s claims. (If true in this situation, this is something that, unfortunately, is an all-too-common occurrence.) What the employer did do, however, was to demand that the allegedly harassed employee sign a confidentiality document that prohibited her from discussion the allegations she had made.

Sometime later, the worker told her husband certain details of her case. After she did that, the employer allegedly constructively terminated her. As part of the case, the employee’s counsel took a very important step. The attorney filed a motion asking the judge to issue an order that would block the employer from enforcing any non-disclosure agreements that bar plaintiffs (or would-be plaintiffs) from divulging details of their cases publicly.

According to the employee’s counsel, the employer maintained a practice and policy of issuing threats against employees if they reveal anything about their sexual harassment cases. The threats include taking disciplinary action against the employee, going all the way up to termination.

Lawmakers in New Jersey have explored limiting the reach of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements in situations where the employee was the victim of discrimination, sexual harassment or retaliation. This spring, the New Jersey Senate passed a bill that would make certain non-disclosure and confidentiality provisions unenforceable. Basically, if you signed a settlement agreement to resolve your discrimination, harassment or retaliation case and that agreement included within it provisions barring disclosures of the details of your circumstance, this bill would make all of those provisions unenforceable.

In addition to that, the bill would enhance protections afforded to employees whose employers want them to sign such a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement. The bill would expressly bar employers from taking adverse action against an employee who refuses to sign one of these non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements.

If you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment at work, do not suffer in silence. Call the knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates, who are here and ready to help. Reach us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how we can assist you.

More blog posts:

What You Need to Avoid Arbitrating Your New Jersey Discrimination or Harassment Case, Even if You Signed an Arbitration Agreement with Your Employer, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Oct. 19, 2018

An Employee’s Failure to Report Sexual Harassment to Her Employer Did Not Automatically Defeat Her New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Action, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Oct. 10, 2018

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