Entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual harassment, misconduct or rape by at least 70 women since the allegations began coming out in October. He was pushed out of the Weinstein Co., which he had founded with his brother. Harvey Weinstein’s lead role in the #MeToo movement has apparently now forced the Weinstein Co. into bankruptcy.
The company filed bankruptcy this week after months of fruitless attempts to find an investor or buyer. As part of the filing, it announced, it is also releasing anyone who signed a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) with the Weinstein Co. Any NDAs the company holds are no longer in force.
What happens to claimants with Weinstein Co. nondisclosure agreements?
People claiming they were harassed or raped by Harvey Weinstein come in several categories.
First, there are those whose civil or criminal claims happened so long ago that the statute of limitations has already passed. Generally speaking, they can no longer file charges or claims, but the release of any nondisclosure agreement will allow them the freedom to speak out about their experiences.
Second, there are those with timely claims but who signed an NDA with the Weinstein Co. They are now free from the constraints of that NDA and can file lawsuits or possible criminal charges against Harvey Weinstein.
Third, there could be people who have timely claims but signed an NDA with Harvey Weinstein personally. Weinstein, who denies ever having non-consensual sex with anyone, has not released any NDAs he may have signed on his own. However, there is reason to believe these agreements may not be enforceable.
Courts often will not enforce nondisclosure or confidentiality agreements that are considered egregious or opposed to public policy, that attempt to hide potentially illegal conduct, or which were obtained under duress. Moreover, these agreements are scrutinized carefully under California law.
Therefore, even those who signed NDAs directly with Harvey Weinstein may not be bound by them. However, if you have signed such an agreement, you should consult with an attorney about the risks before you assume the agreement could not be enforced.
What to do if you’ve experienced harassment or misconduct
As the #MeToo movement has shown us, there is a lot of support out there for victims who come forward about sexual harassment and misconduct. If you have experienced harassment or misconduct at work, whether or not you have signed an NDA, you should know you have the right to discuss your situation with a lawyer.