Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) have been used to hold corporations accountable for wrongdoing without hurting the liable company’s public image. In the past, corporations used NDAs as a way to protect company secrets or sensitive information. In recent years, though, it has become apparent that individuals abuse NDAs to protect themselves from being held accountable for heinous acts.
The #MeToo movement has revealed that NDAs allow serial sexual harassers to continually mistreat women in the workplace without the fear of punishment. The Trump Administration has further abused NDAs to the point where former employees are legally unable to speak about their experiences while working for the government. It is impossible to know exactly what information is protected by NDAs, so the public may never be aware of some unsettling situations.
NDAs should not be eliminated entirely like some lawmakers have proposed, but it is clear that significant changes are in order. There is a lack of consent present in how NDAs are used today. Some companies require all employees sign an NDA prior to beginning work. This requirement removes consent from the interaction, and as a result it could be used to prevent employees from reporting abuse.
Additionally, forcing an employee to sign an NDA prior to employment takes away their ability to speak out against abuse. Companies that require their employees to sign an NDA ahead of time encourage bad behavior because bad actors know they cannot be exposed for their actions.
People in high-profile public jobs should not have to sign NDAs, nor should they even have the option. The purpose of these jobs is to serve the American people, and restricting their ability to speak about their experiences robs them of their right to free speech.
While an NDA is an enforceable agreement that can result in repercussions, it is important to know you can still speak out about your experience. Some companies decide not to pursue legal action on the basis that it will bring more attention to the case. Prior to breaking an NDA, you may be well-served by reading this article by sexual harassment lawyer Tom Spiggle of the Spiggle Law Firm in order to evaluate the risks involved and determine if there are any ways to speak out without breaking your NDA.