Ban proposed on gag orders in Louisiana’s sexual harassment settlements

    Two lawmakers are bringing bills this year to ban non-disclosure agreements from being included in state government legal settlements over sexual harassment claims.

    Louisiana had two high-profile sexual harassment agreements last year that contained language prohibiting or discouraging the parties from speaking openly about the allegations, NOLA.com reports. State Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, and Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, said they received complaints from constituents about the way the cases were handled.

    An employee who sued former Secretary of State Tom Schedler over alleged sexual harassment eventually settled out of court with the state and Schedler for $167,500. As part of the settlement agreement, none of the parties, including the attorneys who represented the alleged victim and Schedler, were allowed to talk about the case publicly.

    Language that could have discouraged public statements about sexual harassment allegations against Johnny Anderson, a former aide of Gov. John Bel Edwards, was included in a settlement struck earlier in 2018. Juanita Washington accused Anderson of asking her for sexual favors when he was her boss in the Edwards administration. As part of that settlement, the governor’s staff, Anderson and Washington agreed not to make disparaging remarks about one another.

    The payment to Washington and legal fees associated with the case eventually cost the state $108,000.

    A legislative audit Hewitt ordered last year found Louisiana spent at least $5.2 million on 84 lawsuits involving sexual harassment claims from mid-2009 to February 2018. Read the full story.

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