Legislature ponders nondisclosure agreements

Mass. Lawyers Weekly reports that a bill under consideration by the Legislature would restrict the use of nondisclosure agreements in the settlement of employment cases involving sexual assault and discrimination.

In January, Republican Rep. Alyson M. Sullivan-Almeida introduced a bill to prohibit nondisclosure agreements in the settlement of employment cases involving claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment and discrimination based on sex. The bill is currently before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

David I. Brody supports the measure, as reported by MLW.

“Some of the components of the bill were done in a very effective way, including a private right of action to enforce and protections for individuals who may want to remain anonymous,” said Brody, president of the Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association.

According to Mass Lawyers Weekly, the only problem Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian has with Sullivan-Almeida’s bill is that it doesn’t go far enough. Garabedian, renowned for his successes representing the victims of clergy sexual abuse, said he would be in favor of an outright ban on nondisclosure agreements.

“Nondisclosure agreements should be completely done away with because they re-victimize the abuse victim and prevent the public from knowing about dangerous predators,” Garabedian said to MLW. “I will receive calls from brave abuse victims who are not my clients who tell me they still feel trapped and controlled by the perpetrator who abused them and by the institution that allowed the abuse to happen because they cannot talk about the sexual abuse except in a very limited manner.”

Garabedian added that it would be a mistake to discount the threat NDAs may pose to public safety.

“History has taught us that if the clergy sexual abuse victims in Boston had to sign NDAs, the public would have been kept in the dark and more abuse would have occurred,” he said.

Because of the re-victimization he’s witnessed as a result of a sex abuse plaintiff being subject to an NDA, Garabedian said he refuses to accept clients who indicate they want such clauses as part of any settlement.

“Victims of abuse who come to me want to try to heal and gain a degree of closure,” Garabedian said. “NDAs prevent the healing process from taking place.”

For similar reasons, Garabedian said he would support a ban on NDAs in any form of discrimination or harassment case.

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