One question many people do not have the answer to is whether signing a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) prevents an alleged victim of sexual assault from going to the police or speaking out publicly about the assault. In other words, if you have signed this agreement, are you legally prohibited from reporting the incident to law enforcement at some point in time?
Although an NDA cannot completely protect a sexual assault perpetrator from criminal prosecution, there is a question as to whether it can legally prevent a victim from sharing his or her story publicly.
Sexual assault vs. sexual harassment
Sexual assault is a serious crime in all jurisdictions. However, sexual harassment may or may not be categorized as criminal depending on the specific type of behavior. In some cases it may be viewed as unwanted behavior, but not a criminal offense in the legal sense. Therefore, the legality of going public about sexual harassment in the workplace after having signed an NDA can be uncertain.
By and large, signing an NDA cannot prohibit that individual from reporting a crime if it occurs. The courts have found it contrary to public policy and interests to prevent someone who has signed an NDA from reporting a criminal act. However, sexual harassment that does not rise to the level of criminal activity or behavior may not be reported as a result of a signed NDA.
What non-disclosure agreements do not cover
A non-disclosure agreement usually includes a promise not to file a lawsuit. This exempts the victim from the right to pursue and obtain civil compensation in a particular matter. It also prevents the individual from going public and to the media to speak about the matter or to discuss it with future employers or coworkers. However, an NDA does not prevent criminal behavior from going unreported. Most of the time an NDA will not be violated if the employee who has signed the agreement then becomes the victim of a sexual assault and reports it. In fact, a judge may void the NDA completely once the crime is reported. One problem is that employees who sign NDAs may not understand their rights to report when criminal actions such as sexual assault are involved.
At Taylor & Ring we are committed to holding perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault responsible for their actions. We are focused on helping our clients recover the dignity they are owed and the justice and compensation they deserve for their injuries. Our Los Angeles sexual assault attorneys understand the difficult road a victim of sexual assault has to take in order to seek justice. To set up a free consultation about your case, give us a call today at 310.776.6390, or leave us a message through our contact form.