NDAs Silence Sexual Assault Victims and Protect Predators
Posted on October 17, 2021     |     Sexual Assault
Over one-third of the US workforce is bound by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). NDAs can be detrimental to victims of sexual abuse and assault by prohibiting them from talking about sexual misconduct. In this way, they can perpetuate sexual abuse in the workplace and elsewhere, silence survivors, and protect sexual predators from ever having to face the consequences of their actions.
What Is an NDA?
A non-disclosure provision is what most people think of as a non-disclosure agreement. It is a provision often found in legal and employment contracts, where one or both parties agree that they will not disclose certain information. In a settlement agreement, for example, an NDA may prohibit both parties from disclosing the final amount of the settlement or any information about the underlying claim.
How Do NDAs Hurt Sexual Assault Victims?
Many workplaces require employees to sign NDAs that prohibit them from disclosing workplace misconduct, including sexual harassment and assault. Other institutions, such as sports organizations and universities, may also use non-disclosure agreements to protect themselves from lawsuits, scandals or bad publicity. Yet, NDAs are notoriously harmful for victims of sex crimes and other forms of misconduct.
Signing an NDA effectively takes away a survivor’s voice. It makes survivors afraid to speak out for fear of negative repercussions, such as a lawsuit against them for breach of contract or the loss of a job. For example, in the Harvey Weinstein case, Weinstein used NDAs to silence his victims and essentially get away with sexual abuse for decades. USA Gymnastics also attempted to use an NDA to prevent Olympian McKayla Maroney from coming forward about her sexual abuse by team doctor Larry Nassar.
NDAs are also effective at protecting sexual predators and pedophiles. Many non-disclosure agreements make it a requirement to conceal a lawsuit settlement or that a sexual abuse or harassment claim has even been filed. This protects the individual or establishment from answering to the public and having to take accountability for their crimes.
How Are the Laws Surrounding NDAs Changing?
Lawmakers at the state and federal government levels have begun to take action to limit the power of non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment, abuse, and assault cases. On a federal level, the Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act now prohibits using NDAs as a prerequisite for procedures involving sexual harassment or assault. There have also been numerous laws passed on the state level in over a dozen states, including New York, New Jersey and California.
As a result of the #MeToo Movement, legislatures in multiple states limited or even completely banned confidentiality agreements that pertain to sexual harassment and discrimination. California’s new law, the STAND (Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures) Act, helps to protect victims by banning settlement provisions that prohibit the disclosure of felony sex offenses, including child sexual abuse.
Even if a jurisdiction does not yet have laws limiting or banning NDAs in sexual assault or harassment cases, the courts still have the ability not to enforce them, depending on the nature of the underlying claim. Specifically, if the claim involves sex offenses that are serious enough for a victim to raise a defense based on unconscionability, duress or public policy, the courts will most likely rule not to enforce an NDA.
Contact a Sexual Harassment and Assault Lawyer Today
If you are a victim of sexual harassment or assault and have signed an NDA or think you might have signed an NDA, an experienced sexual harassment, abuse and assault attorney at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi can advise you of your legal rights. Please contact us today for a free and entirely confidential evaluation of your case. We will carefully listen to your story and give you legal advice that you can trust. We can help you understand a non-disclosure agreement and how it may affect your sexual abuse lawsuit.