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Constructive Use Of Confidentiality Agreements: What Family Employers Should Consider

A self-help guru is accused by former staff members of sexual harassment.

Two former staffers allege he pursued sexual relationships with them after they told him that they were not interested. Three other assistants allege he made them work in a hostile work environment as well.

The lawsuit alleges that the employer was highly secretive about his practices and requires staff to sign strict confidentiality agreements.

The employer denied the allegations of sexual harassment but still faces allegations of wrongdoing. Jane Bradley and Katie J. M. Baker, "Unlimited Power" (May 17, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

Although confidentiality agreements cannot shield wrongful behavior, that does not mean that family employers cannot use confidentiality agreements constructively.

Confidentiality agreements are appropriate for protecting private and proprietary information, like family information, family business data, and client lists.

A staff confidentiality agreement could state that:

  • All family information, images, and videos that staff members are witness to are considered confidential and may not be shared with a third party for any reason without the family employer's written permission.
  • Family matters related to health, wellness, financial affairs, and other private issues are included as information that must remain confidential.
  • If it is determined that certain information may be divulged to the public, the staff member must obtain written and signed authorization from the employer beforehand.
  • The confidentiality agreement extends to personal information, including images of the family or its whereabouts, shared online.
  • Violation of the agreement can lead to disciplinary action. Depending on the severity of the breach, consequences could include a civil lawsuit or criminal prosecution.
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