Workplace Confidentiality Rules ChallengedJanuary 30, 2019
Matthew A. Luber, a partner with McOmber & McOmber, P.C. is representing two plaintiffs in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit that was filed in early January. This case stands out because it requests that the court proclaim the New Jersey Workplace Confidentiality Rule be made null and void. Mr. Luber is being assisted it the case by Peter M. Draper, an associate with the firm.
The story began when the plaintiff, a state government contractor, was repeatedly sexually harassed at work. According to the complaint, she experienced constant unwelcome sexual advances and comments from a supervisor who works for the state government, and subsequent retaliation from her government contractor employer and the state government. A male government employee was also harassed by the supervisor. He ultimately filed a complaint on behalf of him and the plaintiff.
The two were instructed by their managers not to talk about the issue with anyone else, including union representatives or attorneys. They were told that doing so would be grounds for termination. The accused supervisor allegedly saw the two plaintiffs walking together and accused them of a confidentiality violation. The lawsuit was filed soon after.
Many public and private employers require adherence to confidentiality laws when discrimination investigations are underway. According to the rule, investigations into workplace complaints should be dealt with privately. Complaints should not be discussed with anyone else; doing so can lead to disciplinary action, including possible termination.
For some employees, this privacy gives them the wherewithal to speak out, because it can protect them from retaliation by the accused or their company. Problems arise though, when employees who do not wish to remain anonymous are discouraged from doing so. Since the #MeToo Movement, more employees are making their voices heard, not only for themselves but to encourage other victims to speak out.
A Related Case
A 2017 case involving a plaintiff who volunteered for the governor is also in the spotlight. She accused another employee of sexual assault, and her lawsuit claims that officials did not take her complaint seriously. Although the accused resigned after six months, he was not prosecuted. Representatives for the governor said they were following the confidentiality policy, which prevented them from speaking about it. Several administration members testified that they were aware of the claim, but they were told to adhere to the confidentiality rule.
The plaintiff shared her story with the Wall Street Journal claiming her work colleagues gave her the cold shoulder afterwards. After the story was published, the state sent her a letter, advising her that they were initiating an investigation into her claims. It also told her to keep the matter private.
Sexual Misconduct and Confidentiality Laws
Lawmakers in New Jersey and other states have been presenting new laws that attempt to restrict nondisclosure agreements used by employees in sexual harassment cases. Many argue that strict confidentiality throughout these investigations is a violation of the right to free speech as well as New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Mr. Luber of McOmber & McOmber, P.C. adds that the confidentiality directive also makes it difficult for employment lawyers to speak with witnesses and obtain important documents that pertain to the cases.
You can read the full case complaint here.
Marlton Employment Law Lawyers at McOmber & McOmber, P.C. Fight Against Workplace Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Discrimination
If you are facing workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, we can help. Call a knowledgeable Marlton employment law lawyer at McOmber & McOmber, P.C. at 732-842-6500 or 856-985-9800 or complete an online contact form to arrange a free consultation. With offices in Red Bank and Marlton, New Jersey, we represent clients in Cherry Hill, Middletown, and throughout Burlington County, Camden County, and Monmouth County.