Ginsburg ques­tions con­fi­den­tial #MeToo agree­ments

The Korea Times - - BOOKS -

PHILADEL­PHIA (AP) — A new book on Ruth Bader Ginsburg ex­plores the Supreme Court jus­tice’s thoughts on the #MeToo move­ment and her hope that non-dis­clo­sure agree­ments, which have come un­der fire in sex­ual mis­con­duct cases, “will not be en­forced by the courts.”

Sev­eral women have spo­ken out about their en­coun­ters with dis­graced movie mogul Har­vey We­in­stein and other high-pro­file men de­spite the fi­nan­cial and le­gal risk of vi­o­lat­ing the agree­ments. Oth­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer Fox news an­chor Gretchen Carl­son, want to be re­leased from the con­fi­den­tial­ity clauses, con­clud­ing they only serve to cover up abuse and keep vic­tims silent.

In “Con­ver­sa­tions with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Lib­erty, and Law,” the 86-year-old fem­i­nist icon ques­tions whether the (hash) MeToo move­ment will ren­der the se­crecy clause ob­so­lete in such cases.

“One in­ter­est­ing thing is whether it will be an end to the con­fi­den­tial­ity pledge. Women who com­plained and brought suit were of­fered set­tle­ments in which they would agree that they would never dis­close what they had com­plained about,” Ginsburg said at a Fe­bru­ary 2018 event at the Na­tional Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter in Philadel­phia that’s in­cluded in the book.

“I sus­pect we will not see those agree­ments any­more,” she said at the time.

Ginsburg re­vised her thoughts in ed­its made this year, ac­cord­ing to the book, which was writ­ten by Na­tional Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter Pres­i­dent Jef­frey Rosen and re­leased Tues­day.

“I hope those agree­ments will not be en­forced by courts,” Ginsburg added.

Ginsburg had cham­pi­oned equal pro­tec­tion for women in the 1970s as co-founder of the Women’s Rights Projects at the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union.

Some lawyers who rep­re­sent women to­day in sex­ual mis­con­duct cases, in­clud­ing De­bra Katz and Glo­ria Allred, pushed back on Ginsburg’s view of the non-dis­clo­sure agree­ments, known as “NDAs.” They called them es­sen­tial to se­cur­ing set­tle­ments and pro­tect­ing their clients’ pri­vacy.

“Em­ploy­ers would not be will­ing to pay the kind of set­tle­ment that they pay now if they be­lieve that all other em­ploy­ees would know about (it),” said Katz, who rep­re­sented Chris­tine Blasey Ford in her Se­nate tes­ti­mony against Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh.

Katz also fears the dis­clo­sures would make it hard for her clients to find work again.

For Carl­son, the se­crecy has left her un­able to take part in me­dia cov­er­age of her law­suit against Fox News. She re­ceived a re­ported $20 mil­lion set­tle­ment in 2016 af­ter claim­ing late Fox News chief Roger Ailes fired her af­ter she re­jected his sex­ual ad­vances.

“It’s re­ally through NDAs (non-dis­clo­sure agree­ments) and through other means of set­tling these kinds of cases of sex­ual ha­rass­ment that we keep women silent,” Carl­son told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Satur­day.

Un­til that changes, she said, “we’re not go­ing to erad­i­cate this prob­lem.”

Katz, though, in­sists it’s not up to vic­tims to change the cul­ture.

“The onus should be not on the per­son who’s brought a claim to . pro­tect women in the fu­ture from sex­ual ha­rass­ment. That’s the job of the em­ployer,” Katz said.

Fox did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment on the is­sue this week.

NBC Universal, in the wake of Ro­nan Far­row’s re­ports that the com­pany had buried a string of sex­ual mis­con­duct claims with con­fi­den­tial set­tle­ments, an­nounced Oct. 25 that it would re­lease cur­rent or for­mer em­ploy­ees “from that per­ceived obli­ga­tion” if they con­tacted the com­pany.

Time’s Up and other (hash)MeToo ac­tivists lauded the move, but ques­tioned why the ac­cusers had to meet with the com­pany at all.

At least two states, New York and Cal­i­for­nia, have placed lim­its on the use of NDAs in sex­ual mis­con­duct cases since the (hash)MeToo move­ment took off in 2017. The New York law al­lows them only if the vic­tim prefers it.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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