New Jersey has long been known for its progressive stance against discrimination of all kinds. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) has set an example for the nation in providing protections for victims of harassment and discrimination in all phases of life. Now the state is poised to adopt another groundbreaking law: NJ S121 would prevent employers from using non-disclosure agreements to silence victims of alleged sexual harassment, retaliation or discrimination.
The bill would void any settlement agreement for sexual harassment cases that prevent disclosure of the terms of settlement. Non-disclosure agreements have been a growing concern during the rise of the #METOO movement, as more and more harassment and discrimination victims have pursued legal action against employers only to find themselves stymied through the use of contracts that limit their ability to publicly reveal their complaints or their settlements.
Prior to the state legislature’s vote on the bill, attorney Alan H. Schorr spoke on behalf of NELA-NJ, the New Jersey chapter of National Employment Lawyers’ Association to support its passage. Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Morris) also spoke of its necessity, saying, “It is important that we pass this bill to protect victims from being forced into silence, to allow them to share their stories and fight for justice if they want to do so,” she said. “We have seen time and time again countless victims of harassment, discrimination, hostile work environments and sexual assault pushed aside while their employers fail to enact serious reforms or protections.”
If the bill is signed by Governor Phil Murphy, it will ban any provision in any “employment contract or settlement agreement which has the purpose or effect of concealing the details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation or harassment.” It would also prohibit retaliation against any employee who refuses to enter into an agreement or contract that contains a non-disclosure provision, and provides for a private cause of action if an employer attempts to enforce a non-disclosure provision, including allowing the employee to be compensated for attorneys’ fees. In all, it is believed that passage of the law will level the playing field between employers and employees, providing those who have been the victims of discrimination and harassment with improved opportunities for justice.