Is silencing a worker with a nondisclosure agreement unlawful?

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2020 | Business Litigation

Many Cincinnati business owners have their employees sign nondisclosure agreements (NDA) either when they take on their jobs or before a promotion happens. While it’s lawful for employers to have their workers sign these agreements in most cases, it’s unlawful for them to do so as a way to silence an employee who witnessed or fell victim to a crime. Ohio courts might throw out an NDA if you forced a worker to sign one for this reason.

There have been many media reports that have surfaced over the past few years about employers who have used NDAs to stop workers from reporting how hostile their workplace is. Businesses like the Weinstein Company, for example, allegedly forced some of its female workers to sign NDAs to keep their jobs when they threatened to go public with sexual harassment accusations.

A recent Harvard Business Review study shows that at least one-third of all workers who suffer inappropriate treatment on the job stay silent because NDAs bound them to do so. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) statistics show that as many as 94% of workers who’ve suffered ill-treatment on the job don’t report it because they previously signed an NDA. These workers fear the legal and financial repercussions if they do so.

NDAs that create an imbalance of power or contain terms that are unreasonable, vague or that seek to silence workers from reporting illegal activity are all likely to be thrown out by an Ohio judge if they get challenged in court. If you want to protect your interests by having your workers sign an NDA or defend your use of one, then you should consult with a business litigation attorney. Your Cincinnati lawyer can make sure that its contents are lawful and help you argue for its enforceability in your case.