You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

New York Lawmakers Target Non-Disclosure Clauses in Wake of Harvey Weinstein Scandal

Two New York lawmakers are leading an effort to void the type of non-disclosure agreements that for years kept accusers of Harvey Weinstein from going public with allegations of sexual harassment.

The most recent version of the legislation, sponsored by State Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, both Democrats, would make null and void any provision that had the effect of concealing claims of harassment, as well as other labor violations, like discrimination, retaliation, and non-payment of wages. It also includes claims that are submitted to arbitration, a process that often is covered by confidentiality provisions.

Hoylman introduced the legislation in the Senate earlier this year, in response to the allegations that surfaced against Fox News chieftain Roger Ailes.

Following a stream of allegations against Weinstein, in which a number of accusers reached settlements that included non-disclosure agreements, Hoylman added new language to the bill that expands its scope. He hopes that the public attention will give it a new sense of momentum.

“It was really the Roger Ailes sexual harassment charges that led me to introduce this bill,” he said. “We refined it since then, but it appears to be more of the same story, that NDAs force victims into silence.”

Fox News is within Hoylman’s Manhattan district, and Weinstein is among his constituents, he said.

Rozic said she decided to sponsor an Assembly version of the bill following the Weinstein revelations.

“The larger issue is that sexual harassment is pervasive, and we need to start ensuring a workplace that is productive for young men and women,” she said. “The secrecy is a lethal killer. Any contract or agreement that you enter into with an employer that has the effect of concealing the facts, or that makes you face retribution or retaliation, can be harmful for any worker.”

The non-disclosure agreements are now widespread throughout corporate America, in employment contracts and settlement deals, which is why there may be opposition from business groups. The New York legislature does not return to session until January, so it still will be months before it would be taken up by lawmakers, starting with labor committees.

In the Ailes case, a number of accusers reportedly had signed confidentiality agreements as part of settlements, but they spoke out anyway. Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit, but she also had a clause in her contract requiring private arbitration. She has since been speaking out against such legal language.

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case that could have an impact on the extent to which employers can enforce arbitration clauses in contracts.

But the court’s rightward make up, and the GOP control of Congress, raises doubts that action on non-disclosure agreements will come at the federal level, given the affinity to relax restrictions on employers.

Daniel Hemel, assistant professor at University of Chicago Law School, recently wrote on Vox that when it comes to confidentiality clauses, “the status quo is clearly not working.

“Legal change will likely depend on whether state lawmakers have the courage and creativity to craft legislation limiting confidentiality agreements,” he wrote.

California last year passed a law prohibiting confidentiality clauses in civil settlements designed to cover acts that could be considered felony sexual offenses, which is a higher threshold than many cases of harassment. A California lawmaker said that she plans to introduce legislation in Sacramento to end confidentiality of sexual harassment settlements. 

Hoylman said “we are at the beginning of a longer conversation over how to protect not just individuals who were harassed themselves, but other individuals from this kind of behavior who may not know their boss has subjected a fellow employee to sexual harassment.”

Popular on Variety

More Politics

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Peter Coyote Riffs on 'Country Music' and How He Admires and Challenges Ken Burns

    Though an instantly recognizable face from films such as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “A Walk to Remember” and “Erin Brockovich,” it is Peter Coyote’s voice — a coolly authoritative baritone with a Zen master’s holy roll — that has endeared him to documentary lovers and makers. Alrhough director-writer Alex Gibney used Coyote’s wisened narration for “Enron: [...]

  • Lowell Smokes Cafe Marijuana

    With Cannabis Lounges, On-Site Consumption, Marijuana-Infused Meals Go Legit

    Can this century’s Roaring ’20s repeat history but with pre-rolled joints instead of whiskey flasks and soccer moms as the new flappers? This month, West Hollywood will see the opening of the nation’s first at least quasi-legal cannabis consumption lounge, officially dubbed Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café, located at 1211 N. La Brea between Fountain [...]

  • President Donald Trump waves as he

    Trump Holds Fundraiser in Hollywood's Backyard

    President Trump paid a visit to Los Angeles on Tuesday, as part of a West Coast fundraising swing expected to raise $15 million. Trump is set to appear at a dinner at developer Geoffrey Palmer’s house in Beverly Hills, where tickets range from $1,000 to $100,000 for VIPs. Though set in Hollywood’s backyard, the event [...]

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Burning Image Debate Ad

    ABC Runs Debate Ad Showing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Burning Image

    ABC aired an ad during Thursday’s Democratic debate that depicted a burning image of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and likened her politics to those that caused the Cambodian genocide. New Faces GOP funded the ad, which features Elizabeth Heng, a Republican who lost a bid for a Fresno-area congressional seat last year. Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter, [...]

  • Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris.

    ABC News' Democratic Debate Lacked Energy and Purpose

    At long last, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren were on the same stage. And the result was a long and fairly dull evening. After two Democratic Party debate stages in which the field of candidates had been bifurcated — splitting, in both cases, the perceived frontrunners from the establishment and insurgent [...]

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden responds

    Protesters Interrupt Joe Biden During Democratic Debate

    Protesters interrupted presidential candidate Joe Biden during Thursday’s democratic debate. The chants came nearly two and a half hours in as moderator George Stephanopoulos asked the former vice president about any professional setbacks he’s faced and how he recovered from them. “We’re going to clear the protesters,” Stephanopoulos said as the chants began. “We’re sorry.” [...]

  • Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren,

    Dems Debate in Houston: Moderates Push Back on Medicare for All

    The third Democratic debate on Thursday was billed as the first showdown between the top contenders: Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Biden did challenge the liberal senators on health care early in the debate, which was broadcast on ABC. He asked repeatedly how they would pay for their multi-trillion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content