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McKeon & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Protect Rights of Employees Facing Discrimination or Harassment Passes Full Assembly

Legislation Heads to Governor’s Desk; Would Bar Employment Contracts from Waiving Certain Rights and Limit Non-Disclosure Agreements

(TRENTON) – 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 would bar provisions in employment contracts that waive certain rights was approved on Thursday by the full Assembly.

The measure (A-1242) would 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.

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

The bill would also ban 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 would be deemed against public policy and unenforceable.

“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 (D-Bergen/Passaic). “For far too long, employers have used non-disclosure agreements to cover up their actions and avoid consequences. This bill will ensure these suppressive, damaging contracts are removed from all workplaces in New Jersey.”

No person would 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 would 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 would take effect immediately and apply to all contracts and agreements entered into, renewed, modified, or amended on or after the effective date.

The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for further consideration.