New bill would ban confidential settlements of sexual harassment claims in Pennsylvania

One of your supervisors has just been accused of sexual harassment. Rather than spend the money to litigate the case, your company decides to settle. Let’s go through the standard provisions:

  • Settlement payment
  • General release
  • Non-admission
  • Mutual non-disparagement
  • Mutual confidentiality

Ah, not so fast on that last one if your business is in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Not California, Connecticut, or even New Jersey. But, Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday,  Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) introduced Senate Bill 999. This legislation, if passed, would outlaw any agreement (e.g., a settlement agreement) that restricts “the disclosure of the name of any person suspected of sexual misconduct.”

In other words, if the supervisor in our example above admits to the sexual harassment of which he or she is accused, then the settlement agreement cannot restrict the victim’s ability to reveal that information to others. Similarly, if the accused flatly denies any misconduct and the only evidence of sexual harassment is the victim’s say-so, then the settlement agreement cannot restrict the victim’s ability to tell others that the accused is a sexual harasser.

Here’s more on the bill from Senator Schwank.

Look, I’m all for taking measures to reduce the risk of sexual harassment in the workplace. And this bill may be well intended, but it goes too far. When two sides agree to resolve a workplace dispute at arm’s length — especially when both sides are represented by counsel — the government should stay out of their lane.

But that’s just my take. What do you think? Email me or let me know in the comments down below.

 

Updated:
  • Kayza Kleinman

    There are public policy issues here – and it’s quite clear that most victims don’t agree because they want to, but because they are the least bad choice. It’s like other workplace safety issues. We, as a society, have decided that even when an employee is an adult, the employee doesn’t get to “agree” to a dangerous work situation.