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Nondisclosure agreements: a violation of employee rights?

New employees must often sign contracts that outline what is expected of them on the job. For many Ohio residents, nondisclosure agreements are included in an employment contract. These clauses are usually intended to protect a company from losing business to competitors or from having sensitive financial or operational information leaked, states the Washington Post. However, lawyers who represent whistleblowers say an increasing number of companies are using nondisclosure agreements that may restrict an employee’s right to report workplace behavior that is unethical, fraudulent or dangerous. Also, many employees are afraid of retaliation if they report workplace fraud.

It is unlawful to forbid employees from reporting fraud, as well as to punish them for it. One example describes what happened to a woman who was employed by a federal contractor as a manager of environmental and nuclear safety at a Hanford waste treatment plant. She was terminated from her job after she spoke up about safety concerns on the job. Her company claimed her firing was unrelated, but the woman said the nondisclosure agreement she had signed was essentially a gag order. Gag clauses, states HRZone, are another contractual agreement that may prevent employees from reporting wrongdoing on the job.

Federal whistleblower laws are meant to protect employees who take their concerns to the authorities. They may also be eligible for rewards if their concerns are valid. Many companies attempt to protect their interests by drafting strict nondisclosure agreements that restrict employees from reporting concerns to outside sources. Instead, they are instructed to report incidents to their supervisors. Some claim they feel as if they will be disciplined for saying anything at all.

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