As a victim of a workplace sexual misconduct (rape or sexual assault), you may be offered a monetary settlement for your claim and in exchange be requested to sign a legal document called an NDA, which stands for Non-Disclosure Agreement. As an attorney who frequently represents victims in workplace sexual misconduct cases, my firm is often called upon to negotiate NDAs on behalf of our clients.
What Is an NDA Concerning Workplace Sexual Misconduct?
In its simplest form an NDA is a document that is part of the settlement between you and your employer (or harasser). It states that neither party will ever disclose the amount of the settlement or any other terms of the agreement.
Because of the exposure of so many celebrities, politicians, and other wealthy individuals who have requested their victims sign overreaching NDAs, these documents are center-stage in the news cycle today. This has caused the veracity, the value, and ultimately the enforcement of NDAs to be questioned.
Who Does an NDA Really Protect?
The answer depends upon the underlying facts of your case. However, for the most part a basic NDA protects your employer or harasser – by keeping secret the dollar value and other terms of the settlement.
The tricky question is whether you, as a victim, should agree to stay silent about the factual details of your sexual assault, harassment, or rape.
Victims are being faced with this dilemma more often today, especially when the rapist or harasser is a public official, high profile executive, wealthy, famous, or prominent in their community.
Under these circumstances it’s likely you have experienced a significant amount of trauma and would love to get your case settled so you can go on with your life. However, when an NDA is requested in exchange for a monetary settlement, it’s crucial that every detail be scrutinized to make sure that it’s in your best interest to sign.
What Language Should Your NDA Include Before You Sign?
First of all, you must be very clear about what you really want and make sure your lawyers understand your desires.
You may never want to speak publicly about your case because of the embarrassment and humiliation that society tags on victims just for being victims. Or you have personal factors to consider. For example, you may not want your new co-workers or your friends and neighbors to know the details. Plus, you may want to protect your spouse and children from public scrutiny.
On the other hand you may really want to disclose the facts. If a lot of people already know the details of your case, such as your co-workers, managers, friends, family, or even the general public, then you have nothing to hide. In this circumstance, even if your former employer or the harasser himself requests you stay silent in exchange for a monetary settlement, you should probably not agree. Instead allow your attorneys to renegotiate.
You own your story and should never be deprived of telling it if and when you choose.
At my firm we make sure the language in NDAs protect the individual wishes of our clients (the victims) and not the wishes of their employers or harassers. We have represented and successfully settled hundreds of workplace sexual abuse and harassment claims for our clients. And, in every single case where an NDA has been involved, we clearly spelled out the pros and cons with our clients and discussed them at length.
The goal is to honor the clients’ desires above all other considerations.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing, or has experienced, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or rape at work, it’s important you seek out an attorney who has deep experience in litigating such cases, particularly when an NDA may be part of a possible settlement.
We would be honored to hear your story – our consultations are kept 100% private.