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McKeon & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Protect Rights of Employees Facing Discrimination or Harassment Now Law

Would Bar Employment Contracts from Waiving Certain Rights
and Limit Non-Disclosure Agreements

To ensure victims of discrimination or harassment in the workplace are not coerced into entering contracts or agreements waiving their right to speak out, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon and Valerie Vainieri Huttle that will bar provisions in employment contracts that waive certain rights became law today.

“Our workers need to be protected, plain and simple,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “This law will help preserve the rights that are deserved to our employees, as well as add a layer of protection in their contracts, creating a more contented workplace.”

The new law (A-1242) bans provisions in any employment contract that waive any substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment. Such provisions will be deemed against public policy and unenforceable.

A person who enforces or attempts to enforce a provision deemed against public policy and is unenforceable would be liable for the employees’ reasonable attorney fees and costs.

The measure will also bar any employment contract with a provision intended to conceal details related to a claim of discrimination, retaliation or harassment, including claims that are submitted to arbitration.

“As the #MeToo movement presses forward, it’s increasingly important that we take steps to protect the rights of employees who’ve been victims of harassment,” said Vainieri Huttle. “For far too long, employers have used non-disclosure agreements to cover up their actions and avoid consequences. This new law will ensure these suppressive, damaging contracts are removed from all workplaces in New Jersey.”

Under the new law, a person who enforces or attempts to enforce a provision deemed against public policy and unenforceable will be liable for the employee’s reasonable attorney fees and costs. No person will be permitted to take any retaliatory action against a person on the grounds that they do not enter into an agreement or contract that contains a provision deemed against public policy and unenforceable.

Additionally, any person claiming to be aggrieved by a violation of the bill would be able to bring suit in Superior Court, subject to a two-year statute of limitations.

Employers are not be prohibited from requiring employees to sign an agreement in which the employee agrees not to enter into competition with the employer during or after employment; or in which an employee agrees not to disclose proprietary or confidential information which is germane to the business of the employer.

The measure will take effect immediately and apply to all contracts and agreements entered into, renewed, modified, or amended on or after the effective date.