Senators back ban on abuse of NDAs
A private member’s bill restricting the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to conceal sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace has been passed by Seanad Éireann.
The Employment Equality (Amendment) (Non-Disclosure Agreements) Bill 2021 was first tabled by Senator Lynn Ruane in June 2021 and subsequently received support in principle from the government.
The bill proposes to amend the Employment Equality Act 1998 to prevent employers entering into an NDA with an employee who has experienced or made allegations of sexual harassment or discrimination except in limited circumstances.
Where it is the “expressed wish and preference” of the employee to enter into an NDA, this can happen provided certain criteria are met, including the provision of independent legal advice at the employer’s expense.
The Irish bill has attracted significant international attention since it was first tabled, especially in other common law jurisdictions. Last year, Prince Edward Island in Canada enacted legislation modelled on the Irish bill, with similar laws pending in Nova Scotia, Manitoba and British Columbia.
Senator Ruane said: “Today is a landmark day for victims of workplace abuse and harassment who have been silenced by NDAs.
“In passing this bill with cross-party support, we have sent a powerful message to victims, and also to the abusers who have been emboldened by the use of these legal gagging orders — this behaviour will no longer be tolerated in Irish workplaces.”
Roderic O’Gorman, the minister for children, equality, disability, integration and youth, told the Seanad that the government “supports the general principles” behind the bill.
However, he added that it “may not capture in entirety the broad nature and use of” NDAs and this is being examined as part of the government’s review of the Equality Acts.
Senator runae said: “In the NDA bill, we have a template as to what a legislative solution to problem NDA use can look like in Ireland. From engagement with Mr O’Gorman and his Department over the course of the last two years, I understand that there is scope to embrace the spirit of the bill and to build on its provisions. I look forward to working with colleagues in Government to achieve this.”
The bill will now continue its legislative journey in Dáil Éireann.