Earlier in my career, I worked for Bloomberg LP as a corporate finance reporter. I never met its owner, Mike Bloomberg, who was running New York City at the time. Yet the 2020 presidential candidate’s Wall Street background permeated the culture of our workplace in Midtown Manhattan, from the trading floor-style desks to the free food.

Another Wall Street norm he brought with him to his company is the nondisclosure agreement, intended to keep employer secrets secret. Confidentiality clauses have also been used to silence women over legal claims involving workplace harassment or discrimination. Bloomberg’s refusal to release women who have sued his company from their agreements became a major flash point in the Feb. 19 Democratic debate, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren called him out.

But what are nondisclosure agreements, how do they protect employers like Bloomberg and why have states largely failed to rein in their ability to stifle women’s voices? Elizabeth Tippett, a law professor at the University of Oregon, explains.

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Billionaire Mike Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren had a heated exchange. AP Photo/John Locher

Nondisclosure and secrecy laws protect Bloomberg – not the women who sued him

Elizabeth C. Tippett, University of Oregon

Confidentiality agreements are back in the news after Bloomberg's use of them was brought up at the Nevada Democratic debate.

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