New Jersey will be one of the first states to ban employers from using non-disclosures in workplace sexual harassment agreements, a mechanism which proponents say has been used to silence victims of sexual assault in the workplace.
Senate Bill 121, which Gov. Phil Murphy signed Monday afternoon, was introduced in 2018 on the heels of the #MeToo movement. It bans the use of non-disclosure agreements in workplace sexual harassment settlements, meaning the employer has no legal authority to keep the terms of any settlement quiet.
The legislation would prevent any such NDAs in the future and nullify any existing agreements. The #MeToo movement highlighted many instances of employers using NDAs to silence victims of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
“Non-disclosure agreements have, for a long time, been used to silence and intimidate the victims of sexual assault and harassment,” Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-37th District and a key sponsor of the bill, said Monday in a statement.
“Too many victims have been forced to suffer in silence for far too long, leaving abusers to continue to prey on countless women with impunity,” Weinberg added. “Limiting these so-called ‘confidentiality agreements’ will help lift the secrecy that allows abusers to carry on abusing, and make our workplaces safer for everyone.”
S121 gained significant traction in the state Legislature following sexual assault allegations against former Murphy campaign supporter and current housing official Katie Brennan levied against Al Alvarez, a campaign staffer and later chief of staff at the Schools Development Authority.
But opponents of S121, such as Alida Kass, president and chief counsel of the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute, said the measure would run afoul of the U.S. Constitution because it would block any sort of arbitration agreements for businesses and employees, regardless of whether they relate to instances of sexual harassment.