Serial sexual harassers, like Harvey Weinstein, often used non-disclosure agreements to silence their victims. But how do they get away with such inappropriate conduct, and why are victims only speaking up now?
A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a legal agreement made between parties involved in the settlement of a sexual harassment case. The agreement is designed to limit what both parties can disclose about the incident and the penalties following a breach. However, serial harassers have abused these kinds of agreements to silence their victims and continue their behavior without consequences.
It is important to note that not all non-disclosure agreements are the same. The milder agreements require the victim to conceal the settlement amount, but they are allowed to disclose what happened to them. More severe non-disclosure agreements require the victim to conceal all information regarding the incident even if they are testifying in a trial for another case.
If either party breaches the non-disclosure agreement, they may be subject to a variety of penalties. In some cases, the victim would have to pay back the entire settlement amount or an additional payment for disclosing information and thereby violating the agreement. However, this protection goes both ways. Depending on the conditions, a non-disclosure agreement could restrict an employer from saying certain things to the victim, and in some cases the employer would be required to give the employee a favorable reference letter.
It is in the interests of both parties to follow the terms of a non-disclosure agreement, as the litigation process following a violation can be tedious and expensive. Victims tend to comply with the non-disclosure agreement because these agreements are difficult to enforce against companies. However, violation of the agreement only becomes a concern if the other party is trying to enforce it.
Ultimately, non-disclosure agreements tend to create an atmosphere of mistrust between the two parties. The company thinks the employee has malicious intentions to ruin the reputation of the company, while the employee simply wants to move on. For more on how these agreements work, read this article by sexual harassment lawyer Tom Spiggle, founder of the Spiggle Law Firm.