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Two Democratic state reps dare to criticize speaker in public over sexual-harrassment NDAs

WGBH reports that state Reps. Diana DiZoglio (Methuen) and Angelo Scaccia (Hyde Park) both tore into Speaker Robert DeLeo on the house floor over non-disclosure agreements State House workers had to sign to get settlements for their sexual-harassment complaints. DiZoglio herself had to sign one while she was a legislative aide. Democratic reps traditionally do not criticize DeLeo on the floor.

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Severance / settlement agreements almost always have non-disclosure clauses in them. It's part of the resolution of the dispute. Accuser gets money, in exchange for putting the matter to rest.

If accuser wants to make his/her allegations public, then don't take the settlement. Roll the dice with a jury.

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Odd that you can sort of sell your First Amendment rights in this way. What happens if you go and talk (i.e., tell the truth about a matter of some potential public interest) anyway? They get their money back? Strange to me that these agreements are even legal, let alone enforceable. Slander and libel laws should be sufficient to remedy any false accusations. But gagging the truth should be unconstitutional.

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They are legal, and they are enforceable. There is no gagging - there is a voluntary choice. Or do you think voluntary choices should be unconstitutional?

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The way I heard the story on 'BUR this morning, DiZoglio was required to sign an NDA just to get six weeks severance pay, not a settlement of grievance. Seems kinda harsh.

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Having dealt with this issue for over 25 years, I have come to the conclusion that NDA (in particular, in discrimination and harassment lawsuits) provide very little purpose other than to insulate defendants in lawsuits from criticism (often when they should be criticized).

Moreover, settlements, in my experience, usually take place when the defendant has reached a conclusion (before trial) that their likelihood of prevailing is not good.
While there are situations where a limited scope NDA is necessary to facilitate the avoidance of a trial, to me these are useful in cases involving trade secrets or proprietary information pertaining to business operations or business competition.

When it comes to government agencies preventing disclosure of negative information, there are compelling reasons why taxpayers should be informed.Take for example, the State of Missouri.

A recent audit of that state’s accounts found taxpayers have been on the hook for more than $115 million in legal settlements and judgments against state entities over the past six years. That includes more than $9 million paid out in cases involving allegations of workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. For five of the six years covered by the audit, the payments from the state’s Legal Expense Fund were higher than the amount budgeted by the Legislature. In fact, in fiscal year 2017, the actual amount spent on litigation was more than $17 million higher than the appropriation level.

But the dollar figure involving taxpayer funded settlements isn’t the only concern. States such as Missouri (which has an NDA requirement) makes it almost impossible for taxpayers to identify the nature of the claims or if a state agency has had an unusually high volume of a particular type of claim against it. Most attorneys and investigators will tell you that a pattern of claims is often a sign of a toxic workplace culture— especially those claims that allege discrimination or harassment.

Oppressive and discriminatory workplaces do not pop up overnight. Without the proper oversight by taxpayers, we are not in a position to identify problems and intervene and if necessary, vote the offenders out of office. The current monitoring system proposed by the State House is inadequate. Leaving the decision to resolve and prevent problems to elected officials is to acknowledge that we are fine with shelling out millions in taxpayer dollars without a program to address root causes.

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The speaker has perfected the two step sidestep. Remember the probation scandal? Never fear Mr. speaker will back the tearing down of the General Hooker sign as a sign of progress at the Golden Dome.

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But they should not be allowed in government. If the taxpayers are paying for something, there needs to be transparency.

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Our overly powerful speakership seems to breed a lot of corruption and problems. This is a new one.

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