Disparagement? Fuhgeddaboudit!

On May 7, 2024, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that non-disparagement provisions preventing the discussion of discrimination, retaliation or harassment claims are unenforceable. This decision emerged from Christine Savage’s case against the Township of Neptune Police Department. Savage, who had previously settled a lawsuit under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), later made public statements criticizing her former employer, leading the defendants to seek enforcement of the non-disparagement clause in their settlement agreement.

The Court found that the clause violated section 12.8(a) of the LAD, which prohibits any contractual provision aimed at concealing details of discrimination, retaliation or harassment claims. The ruling emphasized that this section applies broadly, covering non-disparagement as well as non-disclosure agreements and safeguarding statements about past, present and future claims.

The Court’s decision highlights that such provisions cannot legally restrict speech about discrimination, retaliation or harassment in New Jersey. Employers should review and possibly revise their employment and settlement agreements to comply with this ruling, ensuring that no terms suppress claims related to these issues.