Employees working for the presidential campaign of Michael Bloomberg are required to sign extensive non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)–also known as confidentiality agreements–similar to one controversially utilized by the Trump campaign, which could prevent staffers from speaking out about workplace harassment, according to a Wednesday report from The Nation.
A copy of the campaign’s employment contract obtained by journalist Ken Klippenstein from an anonymous staffer reveals the extremely broad and protracted terms of NDA’s non-disparagement clause.
Under the terms of their employment contract, Bloomberg campaign employees are barred from making “any disparaging or defamatory comments” regarding “directors, officers, or employees in any respect” unless legally required to do so. The non-disparagement clause does not expire, running “during the employment period, and at all times thereafter.”
I obtained a copy of the Bloomberg campaign’s strict NDA that it requires staffers to sign. It’s 9 pages long and could prevent employees from reporting workplace abuse:https://t.co/oVlL6nQDlf pic.twitter.com/yVZzsUO2W0
— Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) February 19, 2020
According to the report, the complexity of the NDA is infamous among campaign staffers with one employee calling it “absolutely bonkers.”
“It does make people paranoid,” another staffer said, adding, “I’ve had coworkers joke about having no rights.”
Jordan Libowitz, spokesperson for the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said the NDA was definitely a cause for concern.
“The thing that jumped out at me was the non-disparagement clause, which the Trump campaign used in 2016,” Libowitz told The Nation. “That can have a chilling effect on people reporting abuses and speaking publicly about things like sexual harassment.”
President Donald Trump, another wealthy private businessman turned politician, has attempted to hold his former campaign and administration staffers to similarly restrictive NDA’s, filing several dubious lawsuits against those who’ve spoken about their time working for him. While campaigns are private organizations, NDA’s against federal employees are almost certainly unenforceable.
National security attorney Mark Zaid, one of the lawyers representing the Ukraine whistleblower, warned Bloomberg against following in Trump’s footsteps regarding unenforceable confidentiality agreements.
“Bloomberg’s campaign should not go down road Trump campaign carved, which is to utilize NDA that is as absurd & broad as one could ever be,” he wrote. “That is not precedent one should be associated with. Nor can it apply to anyone who learns info as Fed employee.”
Bloomberg's campaign should not go down road Trump campaign carved, which is to utilize NDA that is as absurd & broad as one could ever be. That is not precedent one should be associated with.
— Mark S. Zaid (@MarkSZaidEsq) February 19, 2020
In a statement to The Nation, a Bloomberg spokesperson said the contract would not stop staffers from publicly reporting harassment:
[T]his document only covers the campaign’s strategies and plans; it doesn’t prevent anyone from speaking out about harassment. We can’t speak for other campaigns or workplaces, but legal agreements that protect proprietary information are incredibly common and sensible.
The plain language of the contract makes clear, however, that the restrictions on speaking about the campaign are far wider in scope and literally encompass disparaging comments about individual co-workers and supervisors.
[image via Yana Paskova_Getty Images]