FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Non-Disclosure Agreements in the Workplace – Important Things to Know and Understand
Workplace Fairness is the #1 Most Comprehensive Online Resource for Information About Workplace Rights
SILVER SPRING, Md. (June 7, 2018) – In light of #MeToo and the increased number of workplace sexual harassment allegations that have recently come forward, the role of non-disclosure agreements in shielding serial harassers and protecting employers has entered the spotlight. Workplace Fairness has recently added to their website a helpful set of FAQs for employees being asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement or have questions about an NDA that they have already signed.
Over one-third of the U.S. workforce is bound by a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with their employer. NDAs can force employees to be silent about anything from trade secrets to sexual harassment and assault and have been growing in number as companies become increasingly worried about competition and reputation. It is important as an employee to understand what your employer is asking you to sign and what your rights are.
In a recently published article employment attorney and Workplace Fairness Senior Advisor, Paula Brantner, says “NDAs are a tool commonly used by corporate employers to keep trade secrets under wraps and settlement terms confidential. People may be asked to sign them as a condition of employment, as part of a severance package, as contained within a settlement agreement or in a purely personal context.” Ms. Brantner regularly provides expertise and information to the press about sexual harassment and other employment law issues that Workplace Fairness seeks to educate the public about.
Workplace Fairness answers the following questions, and many more about NDAs in the workplace on their website:
- What is an NDA and why is my employer asking me to sign one?
- What am I agreeing to do when I sign an NDA?
- Why are NDAs often used with victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace?
- What if I break the terms of my NDA?
- What terms should I look out for in an NDA?
- I have heard the new tax law could have negative consequences for victims of sexual harassment and assault who have settlements conditioned on NDAs. What are these negative consequences?
It is important for employees and victims of workplace harassment to know the answers to these questions so that they understand their rights and obligations when it comes to an NDA. For example, a non-disclosure agreement is legally-binding and creates a confidential relationship between the employee and their employer. NDAs stipulate the information that is to remain confidential and how information can be used. Sometimes if you are terminated, you may be asked to sign an NDA in exchange for a severance payment. The specific terms of an NDA will differ depending on the circumstances, and the information that may be covered by an NDA is virtually unlimited.
For victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace
NDAs are often used to stop victims from speaking out. They are included in settlement agreements and prohibit victims of sexual harassment or assault from publicly discussing the settlement and what happened to them. Many victims fear the legal action that may be taken against them if they violate the terms of their agreements.
Pending bills in state legislatures across the country, currently including in California, New York, and Pennsylvania, would prohibit employers from requiring employees to sign agreements that block them from exposing alleged workplace sexual harassment.
Another thing to be aware of is the commonly used non-disparagement clause. This generally prevents an employee from saying anything negative about the company, even on social media. Nondisparagement clauses have gained popularity in the startup world where they are often used to hide the sexist culture in the tech industry.
Workplace Fairness publishes a weekly newsletter, Workplace Week, which covers news and commentary on critical issues affecting employees and their advocates and stays on top of current news about sexual harassment and NDAs.
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About Workplace Fairness
Workplace Fairness is a nonprofit organization that provides information, education and assistance to individual workers and their advocates nationwide and promotes public policies that advance employee rights.
Our goals are that workers and their advocates are educated about workplace rights and options for resolving workplace problems and that policymakers, members of the business community and the public at large view the fair treatment of workers as both good business practice and sound public policy.
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Individual interviews with Workplace Fairness staff and members of the Board of Directors can be scheduled to discuss workplace issues for workers and employers.
Workplace Fairness works toward these goals by:
- Making comprehensive information about workers' rights—free of legal jargon—readily available to workers and to advocates and organizations that assist workers;
- Providing resources to support the work of legal services organizations, community-based organizations, law schools and private attorneys that provide free legal information and services to low-income workers;
- Presenting the employee perspective in publications, policy debates and public discussion.
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Paula Brantner, Senior Advisor