Top elected officials in New York are being urged by advocates for survivors and victims of sexual harassment to approve limits on the reach of non-disclosure agreements for workers.
The legislation, which grew out of the societal reckoning surrounding the #MeToo movement, is yet to be approved in either chamber of the Legislature.
The Sexual Harassment Working Group and coalition of advocacy organizations, in a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Carl Heastie, called for the passage of the measure by the time the legislative session is set to conclude on June 8.
Non-disclosure agreements, commonly referred to as NDAs, have been used by public and private-sector employers alike in sexual harassment cases. But the arrangements have come under criticism in recent years for limiting the rights of victims and survivors.
"While many survivors prefer not to disclose their experiences publicly, NDAs deny them that choice and often prohibit them from even speaking with a family member or close friend about their experience," the letter stated. "NDAs prevent survivors from speaking publicly about their experiences, if they so choose, and often prohibit survivors from warning colleagues about a workplace predator. As recent high-profile cases have shown, these silencing mechanisms force survivors into perpetual silence, while further enabling predatory and toxic behavior."
The measure, backed by Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, would prevent employers from including non-disclosure agreements or non-dispargement agreements in a waiver, settlement or agreement or any other resolution in a case in which allegation of the human rights law or labor law is made.
It would not cover agreements that involve business issues like trade secrets or monetary settlement amounts.
The states of Washington, New Jersey and California recently approved similar legislation.
"The legislation is strong, fair and comprehensive and, if passed, will ensure that the freedom to disclose abuse in the workplace is truly available to all employees in New York state," advocates said.