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Nondisparagement clauses can obscure workplace discrimination

It is not uncommon for New York residents to sign various agreements when they begin working for new organizations. For example, they may be asked to agree to noncompete agreements that will prevent them from leaving their new employers for competitors. They may also agree to forego interests in any technologies or business plans that they create in their new jobs if they choose to sever their employment with their employers.

More recently, though, employees at tech companies and other high growth entities have been asked to sign off on nondisparagement agreements. These agreements effectively keep employees from saying bad things about their employers and in turn they may allow employers to conceal incidents of workplace discrimination from prospective employees.

Nondisparagement agreements do not only appear when individuals take on new jobs. In some cases an employee may be required to sign such a document if they are receiving a settlement from their employer. In these cases, it can seem as though the employer is effectively buying the aggrieved ex-employee's silence with the sum of the financial settlement.

There are many reasons that some employers would like to keep their employees from oversharing information about the corporate cultures of their organizations. However, nondisparagement agreements can conceal serious cases of workplace discrimination and can create hostile work environments for those who are caught in unhealthy jobs with no recourse for speaking out. Readers who are asked to sign nondisparagement agreements or similar contracts by their employers may wish to discuss the terms of those documents with dedicated employment law attorneys in their communities. These legal professionals are trained to counsel and advise their clients on their legal options for handling these and other sensitive employment matters.

Source: nytimes.com, "Abuses Hide in the Silence of Nondisparagement Agreements," Katie Benner, July 21, 2017

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