At the end of an employment relationship it is common for employers to elicit a Release from an employee that, in addition to waiving the right to sue, includes a nondisclosure agreement that essentially forbids the departing employee from speaking about the employer. This is especially valuable when the employer is a high-profile company with brand goodwill to protect. Obviously, the consideration for such a promise is normally some sort of severance.
For many employers, this practice becomes a fallback when harassment and discrimination policies fail to address an issue with the departing employee. But banking on an 11th-hour cure-all is especially dangerous, since some employees would rather retain the ability to talk about their experiences instead of receiving a one-time payment. Take the example of Maureen Sherry, a former trader at defunct Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns.
After turning down a severance offer that included such a clause, Sherry now makes her living spilling Wall Street workplace secrets in a series of high-profile interviews and a forthcoming book. While her employer was a casualty of the financial collapse of 2008, rest assured that senior executives are still very much in the game. While this blog is not in the business of verifying her many sordid allegations, the lesson to be gleaned is that implementing effective anti-harassment policies is a far better course of action then relying on a last-second nondisclosure agreement.