Earlier this year, New Jersey passed a very important amendment to the state’s Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”). Enacted in response to the #MeToo movement, the law now prohibits waivers of victim’s rights in discrimination cases, including the right to sue in court and be heard by a jury. The law eliminates gag provisions which stop victims from being able to speak about their experiences with others.
What does the new law mean for you an employee? Say that you have been offered a job and your employer asks you to sign a contract which says you cannot bring a claim of discrimination to court or be heard by a jury. If you object and the employer withdraws its offer, you have a claim which you can bring in court that the offer was illegally withdrawn.
If your employer offers you an agreement which provides that you cannot speak about harassment you suffered, that agreement cannot be enforced. Such agreements have been in the news over the past few years and have sparked outrage from victims’ rights groups as perpetrators of sexual harassment have sought to gag or silence victims from speaking. Any waiver of the victims civil rights will now simply be unenforceable.
Harvey Weinstein or Roger Ailes and other powerful men have settled discrimination claims by having women sign documents that silenced their victims. Such agreements have prevented still other victims of harassment from learning about the experiences of others. The new law is designed to empower victims who seek support from fellow victims to speak out and resist discrimination and harassment.
In New Jersey, women can now speak out against habitual sexual harassers with less fear of censor or an employer lawsuit demanding she shut up. It takes courage to speak out and now the law is on the side of women and other victims of harassment who do.