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Nondisclosure agreements under scrutiny in California

Sexual harassment is getting more attention in the news this year, as several industries appear to be rife with previously untold inappropriate behavior by male supervisors and colleagues. An integral part of the problem appears to be the system of restrictions that attempted to keep these allegations from the public.

Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), are often basic parts of employment contracts. They have several uses, such as the preservation of corporate secrets and intellectual property, but they are now under legal scrutiny in California and other states, where victims of sexual harassment have found themselves silenced by NDAs.

State legislatures in Sacramento, as well as New York and Pennsylvania, have considered laws banning confidentiality clauses, which can ban workers from reporting sexual harassment outside of the company until an internal mechanism such as arbitration has occurred. An employment attorney believes these clauses "can effectively gag speech about a matter of genuine public concern."

Sexual harassment claims surrounding the entertainment business in Hollywood included several reports of lawyers and supervisors pressuring victims to sign NDAs and stop the process of reporting sexual harassment, employment discrimination and other gender-based inappropriate behavior. Journalists and lobbyists have also claimed they were silenced in this way.

Victims of sexual harassment cannot be legally silenced if they are seeking the end of this behavior or restitution for lost wages, reduced opportunities and other results of this scourge. An attorney can help victims discover the proper way forward through the legal system to prevent, end and make up for abuse.

Source: Wired, "How to Pierce the Secrecy Around Sexual Harassment Cases," Nitasha Tiku, Dec. 04, 2017

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