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senate Bill S. 1314

Limiting the Enforceability of NDAs for Gov’t Employees Who Commit Sexual Harassment

Argument in favor

NDAs in cases of sexual harassment by government employees prevent potential employers and coworkers from knowing if someone is a predator while silencing victims. This puts people in danger and allows perpetrators to continue working undetected.

Cindi's Opinion
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06/08/2019
No one is above the law... period. The rule applies across the board.
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Ronald's Opinion
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06/08/2019
NDAs for Federal agencies Hurt the victim. They only help the villain. Do away with all NDAs protecting federal agencies, and the people that rule over them. Transparency, with exceptions for National Security, is best for Our Nation. Stop protecting criminals.
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06/08/2019
Sure, but why limit this to government employees? NDAs have there place, but they have become so abused. We need to put limits on them.
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Argument opposed

NDAs serve to protect both victims and perpetrators. While it’s unfortunate that they shield identifying information about perpetrators from the public view, they also keep victims’ information confidential — which they often want.

jimK's Opinion
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06/08/2019
Yes, I had to re-read the intro. NDA's as used by Trump to prevent reporting his abuses of power are illegal and unenforceable. Federal Employees are covered by other, stricter regulations regarding their conduct. NDA's as described here, which are legal instruments used to prevent disclosure of sexual misconduct as a condition of employment are just plain wrong, There is a flip side as well. Supervisors who have been accused of sexual misconduct need to be informed that accusations have been made (not currently required in Federal services) to prevent an employee from abusing the system to get even with a supervisor they don't get along with.
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Kodiwodi's Opinion
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06/08/2019
I do not believe NDAs should be legal under any circumstances for any government employees or employers. It is an opportunity for corruption and abuse.
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Mark's Opinion
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06/08/2019
There should never be NDA’s required for any government official at any position for any reason. You work for the people and are answerable to the people.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
    IntroducedMay 2nd, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 1314?

This bill — the Stop Silencing Victims Act — would discourage government employees who are accused of sexual harassment from repeat offenses by limiting the enforceability of NDAs between public sector employers and their employees. Under this bill, NDA enforcement in such cases would be limited and personal information would remain confidential unless the victim chooses to make the information public.

This bill would preserve a victim’s ability to enter into an NDA with their abuser (which many victims choose to do), but ensure they’re not bound to silence — and cannot be retaliated against — if they decide to come forward in future.

Impact

Government employees; government employees who are victims of sexual harassment; government employees who are perpetrators of sexual harassment; NDAs for government employees; and enforcement of NDAs for government employees.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 1314

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced this bill to protect victims of government workplace sexual harassment by limiting offenders’ ability to hide behind nondisclosure agreements (NDAs):

“The federal government should set the highest standard of policies that protect victims of workplace sexual harassment. It is unacceptable that a government employee who sexually harasses a co-worker can use a nondisclosure agreement as a get out-of-jail-free card.  This legislation prioritizes the rights of the victims and ensures offenders in the public sector cannot legally be protected by nondisclosure agreements.”

In an op-ed in The Advocate, Sen. Kennedy added that NDAs create “a country of creepy old men”:

“I have no doubt that many sexual harassment victims agree to a nondisclosure agreement because they have little choice. They sign on the dotted line because they need money to restart their lives after fleeing a hostile work environment. They’re victimized yet again by being silenced into submission. Meanwhile, the vermin who harassed them are free to prey on someone else because there are only muffled whispers about what happened. Nondisclosure agreements create a country of creepy old men. They protect sexual predators. It’s time to banish them from the government workplace.”

In another op-ed in the Minden Press-Herald, Sen. Kennedy contended that NDAs create a dangerous environment that allows predators to find future victims:

“Nondisclosure agreements create a dangerous environment in which nasty allegations are hidden from the public.  They clear the path for predators to find future victims. In the era of the #metoo movement, that’s unacceptable.  We’re discovering that sexual harassment is more pervasive than we ever thought.”

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) endorses this bill. Its president, Scott Berkowitz, says:

“We’ve seen how mandatory non-disclosure agreements can shield serial sexual harassers and hide important information from the public. We’re grateful to Sen. Kennedy for finding a way to bring this misconduct by government employees, and the millions it costs taxpayers, to light — without silencing victims.”

In a 2017 article in TIME, attorney and advocate Areva Martin points out that NDAs can be desired by victims. She writes, “The impact of NDAs and secret settlements is complicated — and in many ways, ultimately benefits victims,” and adds that many victims in cases she’s represented have been grateful for confidentiality agreements. Martin adds:

“There are very real reasons why victims might prefer to keep their cases confidential. There’s the fear of being retaliated against or ostracized by their employers, potential future employers and even entire industries. There’s concern for how their friends and family might treat them differently, or might themselves suffer from unwanted attention. There’s the completely understandable aversion to undergoing a humiliating and demoralizing public trial. The cold reality is that defendants come after victims hard, smearing their reputations by casting them in whatever negative light they can, often accusing them of promiscuity, gold-digging and flat-out lying. Private settlements protect victims from all the painful ugliness that comes with litigation in the public eye.”

This bill has one cosponsor, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).


Of NoteIn an op-ed in The Advocate, Sen. Kennedy notes that NDAs were designed to protect trade secrets, but are now being used to “protect people who send dirty text messages, grope their employees, place threatening phone calls and tie their workers’ job security to sexual favors.”

Upon introducing this bill, Sen. Kennedy cited the case of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ deputy chief of staff, Johnny Anderson, who resigned amid allegations that he groped an employee during a job interview, asked her to send him photos of herself naked and forced her to perform oral sex on him.  A settlement agreement prohibited the parties involved, including the victim, from making “disparaging remarks” about one another. However, despite the settlement agreement, the victim spoke up anyway — and Anderson’s lawyer publicly speculated on whether she might be sued. Additionally, it eventually came out that Anderson had been accused of sexual harassment in the past, and Gov. Edwards — who knew about the allegations but believed Anderson’s claim that they were untrue — didn’t warn the women on his staff about the past allegations. To Kennedy, this amounted to treating the women on Edwards’ staff “like lambs led to the slaughter.”

In 2017, Vox reported that confidentiality clauses which prevent an employee or ex-employee from speaking about sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct is "generally considered to violate federal labor law, though lots of employers use them anyway.” In 2002, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that “a confidentiality rule prohibiting employees from discussing their sexual harassment complaints among themselves” constitutes an unfair labor practice in violation of the Wagner Act, which prohibits employers from restraining employees in the exercise of the right to engage in “concerted activities” for the purpose of “mutual aid or protection.”


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Bill Oxford)

AKA

Stop Silencing Victims Act

Official Title

A bill to establish that certain provisions of a nondisclosure agreement between a public sector employer and an employee shall be unenforceable.

    No one is above the law... period. The rule applies across the board.
    Like (65)
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    Yes, I had to re-read the intro. NDA's as used by Trump to prevent reporting his abuses of power are illegal and unenforceable. Federal Employees are covered by other, stricter regulations regarding their conduct. NDA's as described here, which are legal instruments used to prevent disclosure of sexual misconduct as a condition of employment are just plain wrong, There is a flip side as well. Supervisors who have been accused of sexual misconduct need to be informed that accusations have been made (not currently required in Federal services) to prevent an employee from abusing the system to get even with a supervisor they don't get along with.
    Like (47)
    Follow
    Share
    I do not believe NDAs should be legal under any circumstances for any government employees or employers. It is an opportunity for corruption and abuse.
    Like (36)
    Follow
    Share
    NDAs for Federal agencies Hurt the victim. They only help the villain. Do away with all NDAs protecting federal agencies, and the people that rule over them. Transparency, with exceptions for National Security, is best for Our Nation. Stop protecting criminals.
    Like (27)
    Follow
    Share
    There should never be NDA’s required for any government official at any position for any reason. You work for the people and are answerable to the people.
    Like (26)
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    What is up with these badly worded questions? Too bad laws like these are necessary. Sexual harassment in the government as well as ALL BUSINESSES should be quashed. Archaic laws and archaic mind sets have allowed this barbaric practice to permeate all corners of this species. I don’t know if you can stop this practice. Probably not but removing protection from the aggressor is a good place to start. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It happens to both genders but men perpetuate more than women. I wonder if first time harassment gets a pass, second time is a misdemeanor and third time conviction is a felony. Something has to be done and the only way is to put someone in jail or get some money out of their pocket. If anyone has a better idea let me know or post it here.
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    Remove NDAs altogether and make sure that the Victim and the Victim’s information is protected. Make sure the perpetrator is terminated for life from any Government position and possibly imprisoned.
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    Sure, but why limit this to government employees? NDAs have there place, but they have become so abused. We need to put limits on them.
    Like (13)
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    No NDA’s for any Federal employees! Really, this was allowed? Independent agencies, please keep us apprised of all the bull they are getting away with. They sure keep things hush hush when it comes to their “perks” or whatever you call them. Hell, with this Administration, I’m sure there are many secret deals we are not apprised of!
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    NDAs are hiding way too many things the public should know for health, safety, domestic and national security! NDAs are hiding and protecting serial sexual offenders and abusers. NDAs protect oil companies from things if went to trail, would be criminal! NDAs protect oil companies from the gulf oil spill because they recruited all the experts in the field to help. But before they could see anything, they had to fill out NDAs. What a brilliantly horrific way to silence any opposition to the oil companies version of the truth on all the data being supplied. Even though the data supplied by the company at fault is almost always under reported. NDAs make the wealthy and powerful above the law.
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    I fully support Kennedy’s bill as written and it’s passage by Congress. We’re footing the bill for those creeps in the settlement and have a right to know the details as taxpayers. #MAGA
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    Depends on the circumstances. In this country, we still are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But once guilt is established, this bill wouldn't be necessary for perps...it would be a matter of public record. An accusation is not automatically guilt.
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    Especially for Congress and the Senators, you should also pay your own money instead of Taxpayers money. It’s not YOUR MONEY. You are ONLY representatives. You are not better than anyone else in this world. If you get caught doing inappropriate stuff YOU should pay your own legal fees and also ANY FINES. Then depending on what atrocity you did, Step down.
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    NDA’s for government jobs should be prohibited. . Not “limited”.
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    What's to argue against? "... personal information would remain confidential unless the victim chooses to make the information public."
    Like (5)
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    NDAs should not be enforceable in cases of violence, including sexual harassment. Doing so gives the predator to continue this behavior against unsuspecting people.
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    Protect American women!
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    NDAs should not cover up illegal acts.
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    We cannot allow perpetrators to “hide” using NDAs like this. We must set limits to using NDAs. Pass this bill.
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    Yes
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