In a controversial hearing, a multi-millionaire businessman who agreed financial settlements with two women before their accusations could be heard at an employment tribunal, has been granted a secrecy order to prevent his identity from being disclosed.
The sexual harassment allegations were first made in 2017, but both women have now agreed to withdraw their claims and sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) prohibiting them from discussing the allegations publicly.
Commonly referred to as “gagging clauses”, NDAs are legal contracts used to prevent people from discussing confidential information and trade secrets. However, the use of NDAs to cover up allegations of wrongdoing by the rich and powerful has come under scrutiny recently. Just last year, the prime minister promised reforms on NDAs after retail tycoon Sir Philip Green used them to silence accusations of harassment. Despite this, no legislative changes have yet been made.
For over a year, The Times has fought for the right to report on the case, but this month a senior judge ruled the man’s “honour and reputation” could be tarnished by allegations which have been “entirely denied”.
Sitting at the employment appeal tribunal, Mr Justice Soole said the public might not be able to “distinguish between allegation and proof” and that naming one of the UK’s “richest and most powerful figures” would have personal consequences.
A report released from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee said the practice was “completely unacceptable”, with Maria Miller, the committee’s chairwoman, commenting:
“We need to change the culture in employment disputes. The use of NDAs has become routine and that has to stop if we are to get change in the way employers deal with allegations of sexual harassment and bullying.”
If you have been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, it is imperative you get specialist legal advice and representation from a qualified employment law solicitor. Get in touch with Lloyd Donnelly solicitors today via the online enquiry form.
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