The pervasive nature of sexual harassment in the work place has reached a level of publicity arguably unseen in US history in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Governor Cuomo, in his 2019 New York State budget, has signed into law a list of anti-harassment provisions aimed at curbing the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment.
One such provision prohibits the inclusion of “confidentiality clauses” in settlement agreements involving cases of sexual harassment (unless confidentiality is the preference of the victim) for all employers, both public and private, went into effect July 11th of 2018 in the State of New York.
A confidentiality agreement, also known as a non-disclosure clause, is often proposed by the party that is being sued (generally to protect their reputation). Both parties are prohibited from discussing the outcome of the legal matter.
In some cases, a confidentiality clause may serve the interests of both the plaintiff/employee and the defendant/employer. For example, an employee might prefer to keep the matter silent. On the other hand, an employer may want to avoid publicity that could tarnish its reputation. And so, both parties might opt for a non-disclosure provision in their settlement agreement. However, in the pursuit of curbing workplace sexual harassment, confidentiality may allow the problem to persist.
If a company is notorious for fostering a workplace environment that condones sexual harassment and has found itself settling sexual harassment lawsuits before, this should speak volumes to potential employees. Employees may face the same type of discrimination. However, it’s not likely for potential employees to know about this company’s offensive reputation if past settlement agreements for workplace sexual harassment were kept confidential. Without transparency on the issue, the company may continue to perpetuate an environment where sexual harassment is the norm.
For example, the male CEO of a major financial institution may repeatedly harass women and may face a penalty – but only monetary. The settlement the victim receives is arguably considered hush money when a confidentiality provision is included. That CEO can continue to manage his company the way he sees fit, even if the workplace environment feeds into an unlawful pattern of sexual harassment against female employees.
Now, including a non-disclosure agreement in a settlement involving sexual harassment is prohibited under New York State law without the complainant’s consent. Hopefully, this will help in curtailing the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment. The objective is to lift the veil on workplace environments where sexual harassment is pervasive.
If you feel you are being sexually harassed at work, you may want to consider reporting your concerns to management or a Human Resource representative. It is your employer’s duty to keep your workplace safe. If they fail to do so, they may be held liable for any harassment or discrimination you’ve endured. Contact our New York Sexual Harassment Attorneys today. Our firm has recovered millions for clients in monetary damages. Protect your career, your rights as an employee, and your rights as a human being. No one should have to endure workplace sexual harassment. Call Leeds Brown Law today at (212) 661-4730 or (516) 873-9550 or contact us via email for a free, confidential case evaluation.