Harvey Weinstein Scandal Spurs Lawmakers to vanish After Non-Disclosure Agreements
A pair of fresh York lawmakers are aiming to conclude the sort of confidentiality agreements that shield workplace sexual harassment and that contain been cited in the ongoing Harvey Weinstein scandal.
The fresh language to an existing bill, to be introduced on Friday, would void any contract provision where an employer can force an employee to withhold restful approximately sexual harassment and discrimination claims. It would include claims that are settled in arbitration, where non-disclosure agreements routinely withhold the details of allegations secret.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who is cosponsoring the bill with Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, said the legislation was rewritten after sexual assault and harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein were published by the fresh York Times and the fresh Yorker. Several people contacted in those stories said they were prevented from speaking out because of non-disclosure agreements.
“As we’ve seen in the Weinstein matter, these types of settlement agreements perpetuate harassment of other people for decades,” said Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who counts Weinstein among his constituents.
Hoylman added that because of the secrecy surrounding confidentiality agreements, no one knows how extensive they are.
“Employees who are in a position of very dinky agency, power, are being forced, it would appear, to sign absent their rights,” he said.
The bill amends the state’s labor law and only applies to formal employment contracts or agreements. The allegations against Weinstein race that gamut, with misconduct or retaliation reportedly experienced by assistants and other employees. Other claims contain advance from young actors who Weinstein allegedly asked to private meetings to discuss potential roles — external any employment that could be regulated by state law.
But Rozic, a Democrat, said the recent attention to sexual misconduct allegations against distinguished figures like Weinstein has made people more open to talking approximately sexual misconduct.
“There are men in every industry in positions of power who exhaust that against ambitious women who are starting out in their careers,” she said.
And though the issue is a longstanding and multi-faceted one, she said the fresh legislation aims to chip absent at the workplace norms that leave employees at a disadvantage.
“It focuses on not just the physical power, but the economic power someone can hold over you,” she said.
The legislation is the first in the country to vanish so far and would totally change the landscape of sexual harassment settlements, said Ann Fromholz, who practices employment law and does workplace investigations for the Fromholz Firm . California final year similarly banned confidentiality agreements in cases of workplace harassment, but only where a potential felony was involved.
Currently, settlements allow employers to seize back payouts in portion or in full from employees who atomize confidentiality agreements.
The fresh bill “is ensuring the light can still be shone on harmful behavior, even whether the company pays money to avoid the risk of litigation,” she said.
The dollar amount of settlements may still remain secret under the bill, but employees would be allowed to talk approximately their experiences.
“In the conclude that benefits companies, because whether people talking and complaining stops sexual harassment — and makes the workplace safer — that’s better for everyone,” Fromholz said.