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Lawmakers in Ireland and California seek to prevent victims of workplace abuse from being hampered by controversial contract terms exposed by the #MeToo movement, in a move that supporters say will have a particularly strong impact on the tech sector .
Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have joined forces with fighters, including Zelda Perkins, the former assistant to infamous filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, to draft amendments to labor laws that will help victims of harassment and discrimination.
They hope that the efforts will put pressure on global technology companies, which are known for their widespread use of so-called confidentiality agreements (NDAs) and have a large presence in Dublin as well as Silicon Valley.
The #MeToo movement, which began in 2017, has caused a worldwide uproar over employers’ widespread use of NDAs.
“Employers need to take responsibility for their workplaces and what goes on in them,” Perkins said. ‘We are not saying that you can never have an NDA, but that you can not have a legal basis that can cover harmful behavior or conduct that could harm a third party in the future.
Perkins, who broke her NDA with the film studio Miramax to expose allegations of sexual harassment, helped to draft an amendment to the Irish Employment Equity Bill, which would prevent NDAs from being used to cover discrimination on the basis of the nine protected features in Ireland’s Equalities Act.
The Private Members’ Bill, which reached an important third stage last month, was drafted by independent Senator Lynn Ruane, who said she was forced to act after she became concerned about NDAs signing her friends. The bill, which gets support between parties, has not been opposed by the government. Campaigns say that if it wins full support in the senate, it will probably succeed if it goes to the Dáil Eireann (the lower house).
Meanwhile, former Pinterest CEO Ifeoma Ozoma, who broke off her NDA last year with the technology giant to make public allegations of racial discrimination, has collaborated California Senator Connie Leyva Launches ‘Silened No More’ account.
It seeks to ban settlement agreements that have prevented employees from talking about harassment, and goes beyond existing California laws enacted in the wake of #MeToo to protect individuals violating NDAs to substantiate factual allegations of sexual harassment, assault or sex discrimination to make known.
Ozoma hopes the bill, which state lawmakers will vote on in the coming weeks, will pass and be signed this year.
“The worker protection contained in both bills will affect millions of people and make it easier to demand protection in even more jurisdictions as the employees of the companies are spread all over the world,” she said, adding that clauses ” is inhuman ”.
Her former employer Pinterest, which has an office in Dublin, said in a statement that it ‘the [US] Silened No More Act ”, adding:“ We want every employee to feel safe, privileged and empowered to raise any concerns about their work experience. ”
NDAs have long been used by companies to protect corporate secrets, but are increasingly being deployed to silence those exposed to bullying and harassment in the workplace. In Britain, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy found in 2019 that some employers abused NDAs “to intimidate whistleblowers [or] conceal harassment or discrimination ”.
Regulators, including the watchdog of lawyers for England and Wales, have sought to strengthen guidelines on how NDAs should be used, but few governments have taken steps to review labor legislation.
Campaigns hope that the legal reforms will set an example for other countries. British Conservative MP Maria Miller told the Financial Times that she would force Westminster into action in a 10-minute bill before parliament in September.
Perkins said she was ‘optimistic’ that Ireland would pass her bill, making Irish lawmakers ‘world leaders’ with the best employment regulation on NDAs, setting a precedent and providing a template for the UK and other lawmakers around the world. ‘.