We Protect Workers

Can your employer silence you in a discrimination case?

If you bring a discrimination or harassment case against your employer, they might try to silence you through a non-disclosure agreement as part of a settlement deal. This serves to protect the perpetrator and the reputation of the business. It does nothing to protect you or your colleagues.

In 2018 California took steps to stop this. It banned employers from using non-disclosure agreements that prevent workers from speaking out in sexual harassment, discrimination or assault cases. Yet, companies retained the power to do so on issues such as racial, religious, disability or gender discrimination.

In August of this year, the California legislators passed a bill to broaden the bans. The state’s governor has not yet signed the new bill into law, but it will be a significant step forward if they do. Companies should not be allowed to force employees to remain silent about their bad experiences. Secrecy will only enable predators to continue their discrimination and harassment. Businesses need to admit issues and address them, even if that means a temporary loss of face in public.

Why do employers want you to stay quiet over discrimination?

One of the reasons companies include non-disclosure agreements in severance packages or payouts is that those guilty of harassment and discrimination often act inappropriately to more than one employee. You only have to look at the Harvey Weinstein or Larry Nassar cases to see that once one accuser steps forward, more often follow. The more people who were affected, the more it may cost the company.

If you have suffered workplace discrimination, consider talking to someone you trust about your options. Being the first one to come forward is challenging. Yet, if you find others have suffered in the same way, you could come forward together to support each other in bringing a claim against your employer.