Trump required all his campaign staff to sign nondisclosure agreements. A new class action arbitration claim could make all of those go away.
A former Trump campaign staffer is trying to void the nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements she was required to sign to work on the campaign, which would allow her to speak out about what happened during that time.
But she's not just seeking to void her own agreements. Instead, she's filed a class action arbitration claim to get them tossed for everyone else who worked on the campaign, too.
Jessica Denson worked for the Trump campaign beginning in August 2016. To be allowed to work on the campaign, she had to sign both a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) and a nondisparagement agreement. NDAs prevent you from disclosing any confidential information you learn while working for a company or person. A nondisparagement agreement prevents you from saying anything bad about that company or person. Trump demanded his campaign workers sign both.
Denson has been trying to void her NDA for quite some time because that's the only way she can move forward with a lawsuit against the campaign for what she alleges was verbal and sexual harassment by a supervisor. Those claims need to be pursued in court — but by trying to do so, Denson triggered the remedy in the NDA, which was to have the Trump campaign take her to arbitration and win a nearly $50,000 judgment against her for bringing the lawsuit.
Now, she's hit upon a clever way to draw attention to her ongoing problem while also undermining all the NDAs and nondisparagement agreements campaign workers were asked to sign. If Denson had continued to fight about this via arbitration, those proceedings would be secret, because individual arbitration claims are confidential. But class action arbitration claims are public.
Denson says the NDA she was required to sign was much too broad, and that appears to be the case even for an NDA issued by a private corporation. Basically, it bars her from making legal claims of any sort.
But there was an additional wrinkle once Trump became president. Trump is now part of the government, and any attempts he makes to enforce an NDA can be said to be an action by a government actor. Government actors generally can't prevent people from speaking out, particularly on matters of public concern.
It's no secret Trump is a big fan of NDAs. Two adult film actresses — Stormy Daniels and Jessica Drake — were bound by nondisclosure agreements barring them from talking about their affairs with Trump. Trump has also made noise about enforcing NDAs against not one, but two, former White House advisers who have written tell-all books about him: Cliff Sims and Omarosa Manigault Newman.
It appears that Trump just took the NDAs he used as a private businessman and tried to graft them onto government employment. It's pretty clear that those can't be valid, because you can't bar federal employees from speaking out about non-classified material after their federal employment has ended.
So, it's likely the NDAs that White House staffers and others have had to sign are invalid.
And just think of all the things we could learn if Denson can get all the other campaign staff NDAs voided as well.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.