Gretchen Carlson, Julie Roginsky, Act on Mass Testify at Hearing
(BOSTON) – State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is renewing her call for policy changes in Massachusetts around the use and abuse of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
On September 14, DiZoglio testified before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight on legislation she has sponsored, Senate Bill 2047, An Act prohibiting taxpayer-funded nondisclosure agreements.
The bill prohibits NDAs as a condition of employment or in a settlement agreement between a governmental entity or school and employee or student. It includes a provision that shields the claimant's identity at the request of the claimant.
Lending their support for the bill during the hearing were journalist, author and empowerment advocate Gretchen Carlson and political strategist Julie Roginsky, both of the advocacy group Lift Our Voices.
Lift Our Voices was founded by Carlson, Roginsky and Diana Falzone in an effort to end the practice of mandatory NDAs, confidentiality provisions and forced arbitration clauses that seek to silence workers who want to speak publicly about toxic workplace conditions. Carlson and Roginsky both sued former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, while Falzone sued Fox News for gender discrimination.
Also testifying on the legislation was Act on Mass, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting transparency at the Massachusetts State House.
NDAs are legal documents that require confidentiality to protect intellectual property or trade secrets. The recent #MeToo movement and incidents involving the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Steve Wynn, Larry Nassar and Roger Ailes, however, have shined a light on how these agreements have also been abused to hide the misdeeds of harassers and abusers by requiring the legal silencing of victims.
These agreements have also been utilized in state and local governments, using taxpayer dollars, often in cases of harassment and discrimination. Massachusetts’ executive branch has publicly refused to release information regarding the amount of tax dollars spent on NDAs through the Governor's Office. Public records requests have been made to several state agencies and revealed numerous NDAs have been given to employees over the course of the last several years. However, there is no record of how much in taxpayer dollars was spent to fund them or why the agreements were executed.
“It is sorely overdue that we make meaningful policy changes here in Massachusetts, not only to help those who have already been silenced but also to protect potential future victims from abusers who could be hiding in plain sight,” said DiZoglio. “The practice of using taxpayer-funded hush agreements to silence employees and victims of abuse across our state government is a shameful one, and one that must be ended. I am deeply grateful to Lift Our Voices and Act on Mass for their support of this legislation and tireless efforts around reforming outdated NDA laws across the country.”
“Non-disclosure agreements prevent transparency, and it is important that governmental agencies lead the way in ensuring employees have the ability to inform others about toxic workplace experiences,” said Carlson. “Lift Our Voices seeks to eliminate non-disclosure agreements and forced arbitration that disempower survivors and enable predatory work environments. This legislation advances much needed protections in the workplace and the women in Massachusetts who have been calling for this change."
"Taxpayers have a right to know when elected officials are spending their money to settle sexual harassment and other toxic workplace cases,” said Roginsky. “Government in Massachusetts and across the country should lead by example by exempting all state employees from non-disclosure agreements that cover up workplace abuse. We are grateful to Senator DiZoglio for her sponsorship of Senate Bill 2047, which would end non-disclosure agreements in agencies funded by Massachusetts taxpayers."
"Our nation is experiencing a long-overdue reckoning about treatment of workers in the workplace, particularly sexual harassment and assault of women,” said Erin Leahy, executive director of Act on Mass. “This vital cultural shift must not stop at the State House doors. We at Act on Mass are fighting to build a State House that embodies our values of openness, democracy and equity. Eliminating the use of taxpayer dollars to silence those who have been harassed and abused at the hands of the state could not fit more squarely into that vision. We are proud to support this bill and are honored to work alongside its sponsors to ensure it becomes law."