BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson joined State Sen. Diana DiZoglio at the State House Monday to promote legislation to change how non-disclosure agreements are used on Beacon Hill.
Carlson, whose 2016 sexual harassment lawsuit against then-Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes led to his resignation just a few weeks later, has previously advocated for the end of the practice of mandatory NDAs.
Gretchen Carlson spoke at the Massachusetts State House Monday afternoon. (Karyn Regal/WBZ NewsRadio)
The former Fox & Friends host joined DiZoglio and Abington Rep. Alyson Sullivan, who are calling for a ban on NDAs in settlements involving taxpayer funds.
"Non-disclosure agreements were originally designed to safeguard the sharing of corporate secrets, but they're not supposed to protect predatory behavior," Carlson said. "My NDA means I am legally prohibited from discussing what really happened to me."
DiZoglio's bill, S.929, An Act Concerning Sexual Harassment Policies In The Commonwealth, would ban the use of taxpayer money in NDAs and would not allow private companies to hide details unless the victim requests it.
"It would prevent NDAs from being forced on victims of sexual harassment and assault in the private sector," DiZoglio said.
Carlson is one of several prominent NDA critics who says confidentiality provisions and forced arbitration clauses only seek to silence employees who want to speak out about toxic workplaces.
In her lawsuit against Ailes in 2016, Carlson alleged that she was fired after she refused Ailes' sexual advances. After Ailes denied the allegations, the law firm representing Carlson said it had been contacted by at least ten other women complaining about Ailes' behavior at Fox News.
Carlson reached out to fans in a series of Twitter videos, criticizing Fox's attempt to force her claims into close-door mandatory arbitration, and offering her support to fellow victims of sexual harassment.
DiZoglio also had a non-disclosure agreement. Hers was signed by the former Chief of Staff for Speaker Robert DeLeo.
Speaker DeLeo's office provided WBZ NewsRadio with the following statement:
Senator DiZoglio’s former supervisor in the House – a Republican Member of the House – unilaterally terminated Senator DiZoglio without the knowledge of the Speaker, House Human Resources, or House Counsel.
After Senator DiZoglio was terminated by her supervisor, the House was contacted by a private attorney who represented Senator DiZoglio. The House and Senator DiZoglio’s attorney then negotiated a mutually acceptable termination and severance agreement that provided Senator DiZoglio with six weeks of severance. It is the policy of the House to provide all terminated employees with two weeks of severance, so Senator DiZoglio received an additional four weeks of severance.
At no time did any House member or employee, involved in the negotiations, communicate directly with Senator DiZoglio about said negotiations. All communications were with her private attorney. As such, any pressure Senator DiZoglio felt to sign the termination and severance agreement did not—and could not have—come from any House member or employee involved in the negotiations.
It is also important to point out that at no time, either during her employment with the House or after her termination from the House, did Senator DiZoglio or her private attorney ever allege that she had been a victim of sexual harassment until March of 2018 when Sen. DiZoglio made her experience public.
Over the past three years, the House took decisive action and immediately ordered an in-depth review of the House’s human resources function. As a result of that study, the House adopted a set of comprehensive human resources reforms including the creation of a new, independent, Equal Employment Opportunity Officer (EEO) to ensure a professional working environment for all employees and visitors to the House.
House rules also now include a process for the executing any legal agreements by the House including a stringent process for executing “any agreement to settle any legal claim or potential legal claim of sexual harassment, or retaliation based on a legal claim or potential legal claim of sexual harassment, by any current or former member, officer or employee.” See House Rule 100. House Rule 100 states that “[n]o member, officer or employee shall execute any agreement to settle a legal claim or potential legal claim of sexual harassment, or retaliation based on a legal claim or potential legal claim of sexual harassment, by any current or former member, officer or employee unless:
the request to negotiate said agreement was initiated, in writing, by the person filing or eligible to file the legal claim or potential legal claim or a person legally authorized to represent that person;
the person filing the legal claim or eligible to file the legal claim is given 15 days to review and consider the agreement;
the duration of any non-disclosure or non-disparagement provision of the agreement to settle the legal claim or potential legal claim is for a finite period of time as agreed to by the parties;
the agreement to settle the legal claim or potential legal claim specifically provides that no provision of the agreement, including any non-disclosure or non-disparagement provision of the agreement, shall preclude any party from participating in an investigation by Counsel, the Director, the EEO Officer, a Committee on Professional Conduct or any law enforcement agency; and
the agreement is approved in writing by Counsel, the Director and the EEO Officer.”
The restrictions on the use of agreements to settle a legal claim or potential legal claim of sexual harassment, or retaliation are based on best practices informed by experts in the field including the National Association to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), Pathways to Change and the Boston Rape Crisis Center.
As for agreements executed by the House prior to the rules reform in 2018, none were to settle complaints of sexual harassment, but rather a formalized process for providing terminated employees with a modest severance benefit.
Currently, the House employs approximately 480 people (not including members). Since January 1, 2010 through today, more than 1,040 employees have concluded their employment with the House of Representatives. Of those, approximately 155 had their employment terminated by the House (or separated from employment in some way other than a voluntary resignation). Of those 155 employees, approximately 33 individuals (3 percent of all those concluding their employment with the House during this period) were offered a small severance payment in exchange for executing a written agreement containing a nondisclosure agreement. Of these 33 agreements, 15 agreements were executed with employees who were laid off as part of a reduction in force in December 2009. These agreements were included because, while the layoffs took effect in 2009, the severance for the affected employees continued until early January. The House has not executed an agreement with any current or former employee that contains a non-disclosure agreement since the adoption of House Rule 100.
WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports