A union has won an injunction to silence a woman speaking about harassment she experienced at the hands of an official.
The woman previously signed a Compromise Agreement which included a confidentiality clause.
The union official denied any wrongdoing and an investigation found the sexual harassment allegations had not been substantiated.
The sexual harassment
Union organiser Claire Laycock worked for the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) in Yorkshire in the UK.
Last year, she made sexual harassment allegations against the union’s general secretary, Manuel Cortes.
Laycock claimed that Cortes put his arm around her shoulder and asked her to kiss him at a Christmas party.
She also alleged that later that same evening, Cortes asked her to “go outside” with him.
The TSSA said it investigated the allegations twice and found them unsubstantiated.
Cortes vehemently denies any wrongdoing and apologised for any hurt caused by his behaviour.
Despite this, the union offered Laycock a Compromise Agreement, which included a confidentiality clause, preventing her from speaking publicly about the alleged harassment.
Union wins injunction to silence woman
Last week, Laycock appeared in a video uploaded to Reel News talking about the sexual harassment and bullying allegations against Cortes.
In response, the TSSA sought an immediate injunction against Laycock and a named publisher of the video.
Mr Justice Fordham, presiding, said in his judgment:
“The claimant’s application contends that this, on the face of it, is a case of an egregious breach by the third defendant [Laycock] of the non-disclosure agreement, known as a ‘COT3’, dated 15 November 2021.”
The judge ruled in favour of the union, imposing an injunction on Laycock – but not Reel News or its publisher.
Confidentiality clauses criticised
Meanwhile, Australian employment lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins said confidentiality clauses are common in sexual harassment settlements.
“In exchange for monetary compensation, companies require victims of harassment to sign agreements with confidentiality clauses,” he said.
“The clause means the victim cannot talk about the details of any harassment, in addition to any details about the settlement.”
A growing number of advocates have criticised the use of confidentiality clauses and non-disclosure agreements, however.
They argue that such gag orders protect perpetrators and companies involved in sexual harassment and allow it to continue happening.
NEXT READ Non-Disclosure Agreements
Union wins injunction but denies silencing victims
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the TSSA denied that agreements such as the one signed by Claire Laycock silence victims.
“Upon leaving employment with TSSA, Ms Laycock signed an agreement which ensured that she is always fully entitled to make valid disclosures of all and any information.
“What it did not permit, was for her to repeat allegations which were always strenuously denied, and after a thorough investigation were not upheld.
“The obligations in the agreement were mutual – ie applying to both TSSA and Ms Laycock, and TSSA has tried to respect that.”
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