March 28, 2018 Category: Sexual Harassment
The #MeToo movement has made it very clear that many sexual harassment cases are settled privately between parties. Since these sexual harassment settlement agreements contain non-disclosure provisions, victims of sexual harassment are prohibited from discussing any details of the case. This system helps to perpetuate an environment where sexual harassment can thrive. A new California law may throw a wrench into the process.
California lawmakers have introduced Senate Bill 820, which would prohibit non-disclosure provisions in sexual harassment settlement agreements. The bill, which is known as the Stand Together Against Non-Disclosure (or STAND) Act, could change the landscape of workplaces across the state. If details of sexual harassment cases are not hidden from public view, there will be greater opportunities to ensure that workplaces are not hostile.
What Is a Non-Disclosure Agreement?
Under current law, when a victim agrees to accept a settlement offer, he or she can be prohibited from discussing any details of the case in the future. This is because many privately-negotiated legal settlements contain what is known as a “non-disclosure” provision. This provision requires all parties to remain silent about any details related to the case. In fact, breaching a non-disclosure agreement can have serious legal consequences. A victim could theoretically be sued for thousands (or millions) of dollars for breaching a contract.
Dangers of Keeping Sexual Harassment Settlements Secret
When an employee accuses a co-worker or supervisor of sexual harassment, it can be dangerous to keep any settlement agreements private.
1. Employers Are Free to Continue Harassing Employees
When victims of sexual harassment are required to keep the details of their case private, employers are free to continue engaging in harassing behaviors. Aside from financial payments in private legal matters, there are no repercussions for sexually harassing an employee. Without any penalties, employers will not be deterred from acting out in the future and harming other victims.
2. Future Victims Can’t Be Warned
Employers are free to continue engaging in harassing behavior because past victims cannot speak out about their abuse. This puts other potential victims in harm’s way. Since employees face serious financial repercussions for violating a non-disclosure agreement, they cannot warn others about potentially dangerous situations.
3. Victims Cannot Join Together to Fight Harassment
There is nothing keeping employers from settling multiple sexual harassment cases with multiple employees. Non-disclosure agreements prevent victims from identifying one another and joining together to fight for safe workplaces. If victims were able to band together, employers may be less likely to create hostile workplaces and engage in inappropriate sexual behaviors.
What Will the STAND Act Do?
If it becomes law, the STAND Act would prohibit most non-disclosure provisions in any settlement agreements entered into at the beginning of next year. Specifically, the Act would prohibit any “provision within a settlement agreement that prevents the disclosure of factual information.” The Act would apply to “any civil action” where a cause of action for civil damages is based on:
- Sexual assault
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual discrimination, and
- Acts of retaliation based on the reporting of sexual harassment or discrimination.
Non-disclosure provisions would still be permitted at the request of the victim of sexual harassment or sexual discrimination.
The STAND Act would not prohibit keeping the amount of a settlement private. The Act would only apply to the “disclosure of factual information.”
Fight Back Against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Have you been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace? Has your boss tried to retaliate against you for reporting acts of sexual misconduct? Call the Briski Law Firm for help. Our experienced California sexual harassment attorneys understand that you cannot do your job if you are being harassed. We will fight to end the harassing behavior and get you the money you deserve. Call us today to request a free consultation and learn more.