Sexual harassment claims have been making headlines over the last several months. The stories that have emerged mainly out of Hollywood and Silicon Valley have sparked a national conversation on how women are being treated in the workplace. These claims have also drawn attention to another matter that concerns employees and activists across the country, which is the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
Many of the women who are speaking out about sexual harassment were silenced for years—in some cases, decades—because they were forced to sign a NDA that prohibited them from talking about the incident. This has led many people to wonder whether employers are allowed to keep their employees quiet by asking them to sign NDAs.
The Use of NDAs in the Workplace
It’s common for employers to ask their employees to sign NDAs in order to protect the company’s trade secrets. For example, a standard NDA may require employees to keep customer information and business practices confidential at all times, even after they are no longer employed by the company. Many standard NDAs also require employees to turn in any materials or equipment provided by the employer if the employee is terminated. This is required so the materials or equipment, which typically may contain confidential information, cannot be shared with others after the employee is no longer working for the company.
Using NDAs to Silence Victims
It’s perfectly fine for an employer to ask employees to protect the company’s trade secrets, but the employer is crossing a line if they ask employees to give up their rights. For example, a NDA cannot prohibit employees from exercising their right to file a sexual harassment claim. An agreement can also not prevent employees from talking to others about the harassment they have experienced at work.
Some employers may still try to get away with including these terms in their NDAs. Fortunately, experts believe that the courts would never enforce this type of agreement since it strips away the employee’s rights. Therefore, anyone who has already signed this type of agreement may not be forced to stay silent just to comply with its terms.
Don’t let a NDA prevent you from protecting your rights. If you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, speak to the attorneys at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. as soon as possible. Our attorneys will review the terms of the NDA and determine the best way to seek justice against your employer. Please call us today at 918-582-2500, toll free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.