Piro Zinna Cifelli Paris & Genitempo, LLC Attorneys at law
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Women increasingly defying nondisclosure agreements

Women are increasingly choosing to defy the terms of nondisclosure agreements that bought their silence regarding sexual liaisons or sexual harassment.

It's clear that there are a lot of secrets out there. Powerful men have routinely bought their way out of sticky situations by getting the women they've harassed or engaged in affairs with to trade a nondisclosure agreement for cash.

Unfortunately, that allows men who are predatory in nature to continue their abuses as long as their money holds out. It also makes it virtually impossible to know how many victims of any given individual with wealth and power are really out there.

Sometimes those agreements are built into severance packages that are given to women who leave their positions because of abuse. A former employee of the Fox network, for example, had one such clause in her severance contract to the tune of more than $3 million. Despite that, she defied the terms of the contract to accuse Fox's CEO, Roger Ailes, of sexual harassment.

There are other, similar cases in the news almost every day. In some cases, women realize that they only thought they were bound by nondisclosure agreements when they discover one wasn't actually involved or the one that was there is invalid for some reason.

Others put their finances on the line and risk a great deal by coming forward. They are essentially challenging the men involved to try to enforce the agreements.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the legislature of a number of states, including New Jersey, have proposed limits or outright bans on nondisclosure agreements if they pertain to sexual abuse or harassment.

Taking that action would be considered an act of public policy, with the public interest being in keeping predators from using their wallets to buy the silence of victims. If victims can't be pressured into taking a settlement "off the record," they can warn others.

Unfortunately, it's possible that such measures will have the opposite intended effect. Other experts point out that without the ability to trade their silence for a settlement, the motivation for a powerful abuser to offer a financial settlement is gone. That could force women to go to trial and may cause many to shy away because they don't want to go through the humiliation and stress.


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