Let’s Ban Secret Sex Harassment Settlements

What do the late Fox CEO Roger Ailes, former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, movie producer Harvey Weinstein, President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, comedian Bill Cosby and entertainer Michael Jackson have in common?

Each man arranged to pay out beaucoup bucks to people who accused them of sexual assault or sexual harassment. Each hired lawyers to draw up a secret settlement with the accuser which included a promise that the accuser would never – ever – speak about what had occurred. In other words, these wealthy Americans were allowed to throw money at a problem to make a criminal or civil case disappear. With no complaining witness there cannot be a trial.

Why is this allowed to happen in a country where there is supposed to be equal treatment under the law? And why do members of the American Bar Association agree to engage in writing up closed door/closed mouth non-disclosure contracts that circumvent the law?

Oh, those who open their wallets (or in some cases call on their insurance companies to pay for their so-called “negligence”) will say they offered the payout simply to spare everyone involved the anxiety of a public trial. But we know the truth. These people – who come from all walks of life, age groups and ethnic backgrounds – want desperately to keep their power base intact by making sure their ugliest sex secrets never become public knowledge.

Now, state lawmakers are taking steps to void these non-disclosure (NDA) agreements if they are designed to cover-up sexual harassment or sexual assault. California already has a law that prohibits confidentiality clauses in civil settlements drawn up to cover up felony sexual offenses. But in the wake of the Weinstein scandal, where a multitude of women have come forward alleging egregious behaviors that might not rise to the felony level, there is a push to do more.

“We really need to remove the curtain of secrecy about what’s happening,” California State Senator Connie Levya says. “Ultimately that’s what hurts victims and enables perpetrators to continue to do this and remain hidden.”  Levya plans to introduce new legislation soon.

And in New York and New Jersey lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agree these kinds of settlements should be a thing of the past.

“It was really the Roger Ailes sexual harassment charges that led me to introduce this bill,” New York State Senator Brad Hoylman says of legislation he introduced earlier this year. His bill to ban confidential agreements that conceal illegal sexual behavior includes claims that go into the secret arbitration process.

It was Fox News journalist Gretchen Carlson who first ignited the national conversation we’re having today about sexual intimidation in the workplace. She was demoted from her position on the network’s highly rated morning program after complaining about her co-host’s demeaning behavior. Realizing the sexually tinged culture at Fox was condoned at the highest level Carlson began recording incriminating conversations with the boss, Roger Ailes. After Carlson’s lawyers filed a sexual harassment lawsuit she accepted a reported $20 million settlement and got a public apology from the parent company. The NDA Carlson had to sign as part of her arbitration  prohibits her from talking about the specifics of her ordeal.

“I could have filed my lawsuit and gone home,” Carlson told Variety. “But I’m not choosing to do that. I’m choosing to help other women who have reached out to me since this happened, to make a difference for them.”

Carlson’s Book Outlines All the Steps Victims Must Take 

Carlson has set up non-profit groups to spread the word about sexual harassment. She also testified before congress advocating change in the arbitration process and elimination of clauses that prevent victims from seeking a jury trial. In her new book, “Be Fierce – Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back” she counsels women to keep a meticulous journal of harassing behaviors (not on your office computer) and to realize that an outside attorney can help more than the company’s Human Resources department.

“The first thing to understand is that HR’s primary role is to serve the business,” Carlson writes. “If you need guidance, seek it elsewhere – don’t go to HR” until you are ready to make an official complaint. The book is a must read for those who feel powerless to fight back against sexual assault, harassment or intimidation.

There is a legal dichotomy surrounding these secret settlements. They are standard practice but there is a serious question raised when they are used to cover up a crime. Scaring an accuser into silence is akin to witness tampering in my book and burying criminal activity under a pile of hush money smells like obstruction of justice.

Our legal system should no longer be used to shield sexual perpetrators from legal liability. These secret settlements aren’t made to clear up just one little misunderstanding. In each of the cases I’ve mentioned there were multiple accusers. This corrupt status quo accomplishes only one thing — it allows serial sexual predators to roam free to victimize others.

Every state ought to follow the lead of California, New York and New Jersey and take immediate steps to outlaw this odious practice.



  1. Diane Dimond on November 1, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Facebook Friend Richie Hydell writes:

    I as a child had a teacher and a pastor try (not succeed)I understand the pain and embarrassment even though it’s no fault of your own. But to me to be paid and not as an adult scream to anyone that would listen then really the perp will continue .

  2. Diane Dimond on November 1, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Facebook Friend Jeff Davis writes:

    I agree with you Diane. But I wonder how many people who are not guilty pay them to not make a scene. Come to think of, what you are proposing could end that practice, too.

  3. Diane Dimond on November 1, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Facebook Friend Bill Voinovich writes:

    It’ll never stop….
    No matter WHAT happens, there will always be somebody with enough zeros in his bank account to keep all concerned parties quiet….

  4. Diane Dimond on November 1, 2017 at 9:16 am

    Facebook Friend Alexandrea Merrell writes:

    I agree in theory, but here is the problem…

    In California the results have been that the wealthier party uses the courts to bankruptcy the accuser. This type of case doesn’t grant the accuser a public defender, which means that the accuser, already in a position of economic vulnerability, has to pay lawyers to keep the case going. I have seen many cases where the wealthier party simply drags out the case until the accuser can’t afford to proceed farther.

    The result is that the accuser, who can’t afford to continue to pay the lawyers fees, is forced to withdraw the case, which has the appearance to the outside world, of being discredited.

    So, the accused is vindicated by having the case dropped and the accuser is essentially defamed and broke with out compensation or recourse.

    Between the 2, I would rather have a settlement and an NDA.

    • Diane Dimond on November 1, 2017 at 9:16 am

      Diane Dimond replies:

      What you are describing is the process in a CIVIL case, Alexandrea Merrell – I’m wondering why there aren’t more CRIMINAL charges pursued against these serial offenders. With this path the victim would not be placed in an emotional/financially impossible position – it would be the duty of the state to go after the perp…

  5. Diane Dimond on November 1, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Facebook Friend Savannah Silver writes:

    Lawyers are very good at this too, the attorney that was working for me in my mothers recent guardianship matters offered me the apt in his home while the proceedings were going on with delays over a three months long episode,( I lived out of state, he did not file papers to make demands that this or that stop, but offered his apartment) it was very odd to me to be offered something like that, his wife is full blown Alzheimer’s( living at home with aides and his care in the evenings, she would not even know I was there is what he said) this was made outside the court house after a hearing extending the matters, a little over zealous, inappropriate, unnerving and he stated that it was a must that she not know I was in the apt, when I declined, shortly thereafter things started turning negative for me in the matter, my mother was eventually with the assistance of ” My Lawyer ” placed into the CA Guardianship of the woman that I hired through his advice as the Temp Fiduciary, She was taken from me, anyone else smell a rat. I declined a very uncomfortable situation … I was I felt sexually harassed for proper representation, anyone care to talk about this. My Hand to God, when I declined his offer to live rent free in his apartment within his home, I got Screwed. ( I know that is rude, but it is exactly what took place, who do I report this to?)

    • Diane Dimond on November 1, 2017 at 9:17 am

      Diane Dimond replies:
      I’m not a lawyer but I would start by making a complaint to the California Bar Association’s ethics board. Then I’d make a complaint at my local district attorney’s office. Ask for the sex crimes department. Likely if this attorney’s intentions were for sex he has tried this with others. The authorities can’t help you if you haven’t reported it.

  6. Diane Dimond on November 1, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Facebook Friend Alan Fountain writes:

    Diane Dimond hits a home run discussing the flaw in sexual assault defendants ability to circumvent the legal and civil system by out of court private non-disclosure civil settlements. I feel the persons who negotiate these settlements should be criminally liable if their client commits another crime after their Co – enabling and shielding the crime. The Civil Statute of Limitations movement is flawed in that we are passing catchy slogans like in GA that are Public Relations vehicles made to appear to the public when you report ” The Hidden Predator Act” passed people assume it is iron clad victim-friendly legislation that affects public safety issues from high-risk offenders and predators. It is really the passing of Slogans, not laws that help survivors and public safety but only benefits the VIP Cases that are used as prototype cases to get the press that allows the politicians that pen these laws to look friendly in the public eye. Diane Dimond is on to the disgrace in deflective settlements that allow affluent to escape exposure and warn the public of their danger or proclivities to offend. We need to both hold legislators like in GA who pass smoke screen legislation to fool public as well as prevent sexual assault private settlements to protect identifying persons who pose a danger to the public. Great timely topic Diane as we debate this topic more freely in the public domain since revelations of the Weinstein’s, Sandusky’s, Catholic Church priests, and deceptive legislative slogans like in GA that are meaningless paths to transparency about sexual predators in our society. We have an Enabling Political and Legal Culture who protect the predators above the public. This is why Predators are prevailing in the sexual assault paradigm. Let’s fix this crisis and educate the public on political band-aids and smokescreens by unethical politicians and lawmakers. about.me/alanfountain

  7. Diane Dimond on November 1, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Facebook Friend Daniel Simone writes:

    I’m wondering if all the debates and admonishing about sex abuse acts would cause the same stir if there were cases where an adult female abused, harassed, or raped an adult male. Would society, specifically American society, attack a woman who sexually molested a man?

  8. Diane Dimond on November 1, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Facebook Friend Daniel B. Morgan writes:

    Money talks, and everybody walks…………………

  9. Diane Dimond on November 1, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Facebook Friend Nancy Spieker Robel writes:

    Another relevant article, a Diane! I agree wholeheartedly with revamping this loophole to evade justice!

  10. […] There is a legal dichotomy surrounding these secret settlements. They are standard practice but there is a serious question raised when they are used to cover up a crime. Scaring an accuser into silence is akin to witness tampering in my book and burying criminal activity under a pile of hush money smells like obstruction of justice. https://www.dianedimond.com/lets-ban-secret-sex-harassment-settlements/ […]

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