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NY harassment laws change in response to #MeToo, #TimesUp

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One of the most notorious revelations of sexual misconduct in the #metoo movement was the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Accused by numerous assistants, actresses, and others of sexual harassment and sexual assault, Weinstein and his associated film production companies used nondisclosure agreements to aggressively keep his behavior quiet.

According to Zelda Perkins, a former assistant to Weinstein, her nondisclosure agreement was "morally lacking on every level." Mr. Perkins recently spoke out against nondisclosure agreements to the British Parliament.

New York lawmakers were listening.

New York bans NDAs for sexual harassment claims

The use of NDAs by Weinstein and others prompted New York lawmakers to change the state's sexual harassment laws. On March 30th, the New York State Senate unanimously passed a law that would ban nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment complaints. The law would also prevent lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct from using taxpayer money to resolve complaints, and applies to both public and private entities.

The Assembly had previously passed an identical bill, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign it into law.

Not everyone is celebrating the law

While the measure received significant support, it is not without its critics. Some have argued that the law doesn't go far enough, and that its failure to define sexual harassment may lead courts to narrowly interpret when NDAs in sexual harassment claims are prohibited. Others feel that, by barring NDAs, companies may be less willing to settle these cases quickly, which would force more victims of sexual harassment and assault to go through lengthy and public litigation in order to potentially recover damages.

How will the new bill affect sexual harassment claims?

All workplaces should be free from sexual harassment, but unfortunately this type of misconduct still occurs all too often. It remains to be seen whether the law, one of the first of its kind, will help deter serial offenders.

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