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State of Rhode Island General Assembly
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Sen. Sheehan bill would make non-disclosure agreements as they pertain to cases of sexual harassment nonbinding
STATE HOUSE — The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday heard testimony on legislation introduced by Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) that would make non-disclosure agreements nonbinding in cases involving sexual harassment.
The bill (
) would void any provision of a settlement that prohibits disclosure of the factual information related to a claim of sexual harassment, retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, and stalking as against public policy.
“These types of agreements are increasingly being used to empower sexual predators,” said Senator Sheehan. “They are being used to silence victims and stop them from discussing abuse — even with their families — and from warning others. It’s a practice that has to stop.”
A non-disclosure agreement is a confidentiality contract that prohibits the disclosure of factual information related to a claim by a party to the agreement. Such agreements were initially used by high-tech firms to protect trade secrets, but victims’ rights advocates say that they are increasingly being used to shield those in power from allegations of rape or abuse.
“Without nondisclosure agreements, countless victims would have been free to come forward, making it harder for abusers to dodge accountability and consequences for their actions,” said Senator Sheehan. “I find it unconscionable and unjust as a matter of public policy to permit perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault to hide behind a veil of secrecy of nondisclosure agreements.”
The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence), Paul V. Jabour (D-Dist. 5, Providence), Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) along with 27 other senators.
For more information, contact:
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
Lt. Governor's Office
Secretary of State
Link to Public Records Request