In the wake of the #MeToo movement, a number of states are considering legislation that would limit an employer’s ability to use non-disclosure agreements (“NDAs”) when settling sexual harassment claims. New York was the first state to enact such legislation, which was passed as part of a wide-ranging budget bill that takes effect July 11, 2018. New York’s law bans non-disclosure provisions in settlements of claims involving sexual harassment allegations, unless confidentiality is the “complainant’s preference,” provided some onerous procedures are complied with. Washington State passed a similar law. Arizona, California, and Pennsylvania are also considering legislation to restrict the use of NDAs.
As allegations of sexual misconduct continue to surface almost daily against high-profile individuals, some legislators have responded by proposing legislation curtailing the use of non-disclosure (NDA) and confidentiality agreements. Critics have opined that such agreements (particularly as used by Harvey Weinstein) have enabled victimizers to conceal and continue long-running patterns of sexual misconduct, in that they prevented discussion of the accusations among both the victims and others, such as co-workers, who knew of the victimization.
In October, California State Senator Connie Leyva announced that she would introduce “legislation to ban secret settlements (confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements) in sexual assault, sexual harassment and sex discrimination cases” when the California Senate reconvenes in early January 2018. On November 15, Pennsylvania State Senator Judy Schwank stated in a press conference that she would introduce a bill that prospectively bans contractual provisions “prohibit[ing] a person from revealing the identity of a person who committed sexual misconduct” and voids any such provisions entered into under duress or incapacity, or by a minor, prior to the law’s enactment.