Larry Nassar and the Ethics of Using Non-Disclosure Agreements to Settle Sexual Misconduct Claims

2018-02-06T22:13:11+00:00

On January 24, 2018, Larry Nassar, the disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting more than 150 girls. During Nassar’s sentencing, many of his victims provided emotional impact statements which revealed the lasting scars of his heinous acts.  One such statement came from retired Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney; however, that statement could have resulted in her paying a $100,000 penalty for breach of contract.

As part of a 2016 settlement between Maroney and USA Gymnastics, Maroney relieved USA Gymnastics of liability – related to Nassar’s abuse.  The settlement included non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses which dictated that Maroney could not discuss what Nassar did to her. The settlement contract called for Maroney to pay USA Gymnastics over $100,000 in damages if she violated the non-disclosure clauses.

Ultimately, USA Gymnastics announced that it would not seek to enforce the damages clause if Maroney testified against Nassar. Even so, this situation has sparked a renewed debate regarding the use of non-disclosure agreements which cover sexual misconduct.

On the one hand, you have the traditional “freedom of contract” argument.  This perspective contends that parties who have reached a voluntary and mutually agreeable settlement contract should be able to enforce the terms of that contract. On the other hand, is the argument that non-disclosure agreements in this context are deplorable public policy and can facilitate repeat sexual misconduct.

It is very likely that many states will look at legislation which addresses the legality and enforceability of non-disclosure agreements that seek to suppress details of sexual misconduct claims.  Such legislation could potentially impact the enforceability of non-disclosure agreements relating to claims of discrimination and harassment.

At Humble Law, LLC, we have represented employees from an array of different industries dealing with sexual harassment claims. Our experienced and aggressive Birmingham employment law attorneys believe that these behaviors are a violation of employee rights and call for swift and incisive legal action on the victim’s behalf.

Want to learn more about how our firm can advocate for you during this difficult time? Contact us today.

Attorney Bradley Byrne

Brad Byrne is an Associate Attorney in Humble Law LLC’s Birmingham office. He represents employees whose rights have been violated. Brad can be reached via email at brad@humble.law or by phone at 205-358-3100.

Contact Bradley Byrne