Variety reported on Wednesday that a California lawmaker will “introduce legislation to ban secret settlements in sexual harassment cases”. Since the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein have surfaced, so has another issue: settlements that include confidentiality clauses. The New York Times claims that Weinstein has paid at least eight settlements, all of which included NDAs. 

California State Senator, Connie Leyva, wants to introduce legislation “that prohibits the type of settlements Weinstein paid women that required them to sign nondisclosure agreements”. This issue goes beyond the Weinstein case, with other famous figures, such as Bill O’Reilly having women sign NDAs in exchange for settlements. Even though clauses that prevent employees from discussing workplace harassment are in violation of the Wagner Act, it gets more complicated when employees sign agreements pertaining specifically to legal settlements

It’s increasingly common for women to settle out of court, simply because it can feel like they have no better option. Victims are able to be compensated for their assault, and avoid going through the lengthy court system. We’ve also seen time and time again the public shaming and blame women face when they come forward (Why did you drink so much? How did you present yourself?)  

Signing these NDAs also keeps perpetrators of sexual assault protected, meaning that there might ultimately be fewer victims. This is the driving factor behind Levya’s proposed legislation: “Ultimately that’s what hurts victims and enables perpetrators to continue to do this and remain hidden.” And this is not Senator Levya’s first time tackling sexual assault cases: she successfully passed legislation eliminating the statute of limitations on rape. 

Levya is hoping to address the secrecy of sexual assault in the workplace: “I hope that we are finally at a point in our society to say, enough is enough. We need to make sure that women understand we are going to have each other’s back.”

Click here to learn more about how NDAs protect sexual aggressors

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