Proposal would make sex-harassment settlements public in NJ
The cascade of stories about powerful men who had engaged in sexual misconduct, only to have the settlements of subsequent lawsuits kept secret, may prompt state lawmakers to act to require records of such payments to be public.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, said she had thought about the issue for a while but that reports of multiple private settlements involving film mogul Harvey Weinstein and media figures Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes show why nondisclosure agreements should be banned.
“I think one of the reasons that this has gone on for as long as it’s gone on is because these have been kept secret,” Weinberg said.
“Very often, it’s corporations that are paying victims in these cases and require confidentiality so that nobody knows that you’ve got working in your company, that should have been addressed, a serial abuser,” she said.
Weinberg plans to introduce a bill Monday banning nondisclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment, assault, abuse or other misconduct in the workplace and will be proposed Monday.
It’s separate from one first proposed by Assemblyman Tim Eustace, D-Bergen, in 2013 that would require disclosure of judgements, records, and settlements concerning public hazards. That bill – which Weinberg also sponsors – hasn’t gotten a hearing.
Weinberg said she’s hopeful the Legislature acts on the bill, perhaps even before the current session ends in January, noting Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, has expressed support – though preferred that it cover a wider range of nondisclosure agreements.
“I think with the publicity that’s occurred over the last number of weeks, people are more attuned to how widespread this kind of behavior is,” she said. “Hopefully we’re seeing the beginning of a cultural change and then the beginning of a legal change, which will help the cultural change.”