BATON ROUGE – A recently passed bill giving sexual harassment victims more freedom to talk about their experiences might be a deterrent to settling cases out of court, according to a Loyola University law professor.
According to Nola.com, HB197, sponsored by state Rep. Franklin Foil (R-Baton Rouge), would prevent victims of sexual harassment from being forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of their settlement when the funds are from the public, something not currently the norm for Louisiana.
Foil believes it is unfair for sexual harassment victims to be silenced by the state just because they have received a payout, and is hoping to create an environment in which they will be allowed to speak up, should they feel the need to.
“Louisiana is one of many states now considering whether to ban the use of confidentiality provisions in the settlement of workplace sexual harassment suits,” Johanna Kalb, a constitutional law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, told Louisiana Record. “While the pending bills in the Louisiana House and Senate would only apply to public workplaces, other states are also considering whether to extend the ban on confidentiality provisions to private employers.”
While it has been touted as a way to empower victims, Kalb cannot help but see that there are two sides to it.
“These laws can help to expose and prevent harassment by allowing victims to accept settlements without giving up the right to tell their stories,” Kalb said. “However, the ban on confidentiality provisions could potentially make employers less likely to settle quickly since they will no longer be able to use settlement to avoid exposure.”