Does signing a non-disclosure agreement prevent you from filing a sexual harassment claim against your employer? Questions regarding employee rights relating to sexual harassment have been a big news item ever since a cascade of sexual assault allegations began with those against film executive Harvey Weinstein. That scandal continues to simmer, with other Hollywood giants including Ben Affleck and Kevin Spacey facing their own allegations.
Employers are allowed to use agreements such as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to limit legal claims. However, some rights cannot be signed away, and businesses that attempt to severely limit your rights can run the risk of these agreements being deemed unenforceable. Not only that, but employers could then attract attention from state and federal agencies which can lead to further invalidation of employee agreements. This can lead to administrative penalties.
In the Weinstein cases, an investigation uncovered that many of the accusers signed NDAs and confidential settlements that kept the story out of the light. However, employees cannot waive future claims based on illegal activity that occurs following the signing of an NDA, and often, courts would not enforce such agreements.
Regardless of NDA or Waiver, You Are Protected Against Sexual Harassment
If you do become the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, it can be hard to come forward. It is a stressful, scary and difficult experience.
The first thing you should do is to make it known to the harasser that his or her behavior is unacceptable. If that does not help, you need to discuss it with every relevant person you can until the problem is addressed – your supervisor, the harasser’s supervisor, HR or anyone else who may have a position of authority that can help. If your supervisor is the harasser, go to his or her supervisor.
Make sure you are collecting evidence of the harassment as time passes. Your testimony to higher-ups, any digital evidence and even other complaints your coworkers might have about the harasser can all be valuable if you end up needing to take legal action. And as difficult as it may be, do not be afraid of workplace retaliation, as any form of retaliation can form a solid basis for a lawsuit.
Lastly, speaking to an employment attorney can help you begin the process of righting any wrongs you suffer at the hands of a harassing coworker or supervisor.