From WWD | Condé Nast to End NDAs, But Union Says That’s Not Enough
Condé Nast is ending nondisclosure agreements, or NDAs, for harassment and discrimination.
In a company-wide note, new chief people officer Stan Duncan announced that the media company, which owns The New Yorker, Vogue and GQ, will no longer enter into NDAs “that prevent an employee from making a disclosure of conduct they were subjected to that they believe, in good faith, constitutes harassment, discrimination or retaliation.”
It also plans to release existing NDAs in these matters and advised anyone who is currently in an NDA that wishes to be released to come speak with its legal team, “who will handle these requests on a case-by-case basis.”
“At Condé Nast, our journalism has brought important issues of workplace conduct to light and made significant contributions to the conversation about how to improve professional environments,” he said in the note.
“One thing frequently noted is that nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreements impede transparency — and can sometimes allow bad actors to go on and harass or discriminate against others. Our reporting on issues at other companies has prompted us to reconsider the role of NDAs at our own company,” he added.
Duncan noted that there are legitimate arguments in favor of NDAs in certain circumstances, including confidential settlements that can spare both employees and employers the cost of litigation, and maintain privacy for all involved.
The NewsGuild of New York, which represents staffers at three Condé-owned publications — The New Yorker, Pitchfork and Ars Technica — had been pushing for the elimination of NDAs in their bargaining contracts, spurred on by The New Yorker’s NDAs coverage, especially regarding how Harvey Weinstein repeatedly used them to cover his behavior. Negotiations are set to continue next week.
NewsGuild president Susan DeCarava welcomed today’s announcement, but told WWD it needs to go further.
“We were really surprised that the company essentially dragged its feet in responding to our proposal. We put it on the table in November of last year and frankly are yet to receive any formal response. It’s clear now that they have adopted — some might say co-opted — the concept that we put forward and have turned it into corporate policy,” she said.
“We’re pleased about that, but that is frankly not enough. The value of having a union contract is that it’s enforceable and its collectively bargained and it cannot be changed unless both parties agree to it. Corporate policies on the other hand are subject to the whim of whoever’s in charge at the particular time,” DeCarava continued.
She added that the real test is going to be when they’re back at the bargaining table next week to see whether or not they’re actually going to agree to the proposal to enshrine it in the contract and to make it something that doesn’t happen on a case-by-case basis.
A Condé spokesperson said: “This policy, along with several others, has been under review since we announced the merger of the U.S. and international businesses nearly a year ago. We’re happy that the NewsGuild is supportive of our decision to update our NDA policy.”
The subject of NDAs in the workplace has become quite political of late, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren calling out fellow presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg about his use of NDAs in the workplace during this week’s Democratic presidential debate.
“He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, to sign nondisclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace,” she said, asking him if he would release all of those women.
The former mayor of New York, responded that Bloomberg has “very few” NDAs and that “none of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told.”
“And let me just — and let me — there’s agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet and that’s up to them. They signed those agreements, and we’ll live with it,” he added.
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