N.J. Senate OKs ban on nondisclosure deals concealing details of sexual harassment

N.J. Sen. Loretta Weinberg discusses her legislation to help deter abusive workplace behavior. The Senate has passed the measure that now awaits consideration in the Assembly. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

N.J. Sen. Loretta Weinberg discusses her legislation to help deter abusive workplace behavior. The Senate has passed the measure that now awaits consideration in the Assembly. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

A measure to ban nondisclosure agreements concealing details of sexual harassment in the workplace has advanced in New Jersey with passage by the state Senate.

Confidentiality agreements keep abusive behaviors secret, said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen.

“This bill will right this wrong and ensure that no employer can take retaliatory action against a worker who refuses to sign a confidentiality agreement or speaks out about discriminatory practices,” she said.

The legislation also would allow victims to maintain confidentiality.

Attorney Nancy Erika Smith, who represents plaintiffs who have sued over sexual harassment in the workplace, said nondisclosure agreements can hide bad behavior.

“I have had the experience time and time again over 38 years when a woman complains of harassment, then learns she’s about to lose her job as a result of complaining or has already lost her job,” she said. “Then we get a settlement so she can move on with her life and she’s told to shut up.”

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who said her legislation could help bring an end to abusive sexual harassment at work, hopes for an Assembly vote approving the bill in the next few weeks.

Those who decide to take action against violators and win would be awarded attorney fees and costs.

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