Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
Vast Majority of Silicon Valley Sexual Harassment Cases Buried in Shadows of Legal Clauses

Vast Majority of Silicon Valley Sexual Harassment Cases Buried in Shadows of Legal Clauses

Numerous scandals over Silicon Valley workplace misconduct have unfolded recently, particularly with regard to gender discrimination. Although more and more women are coming forward with allegations relating to what is reported to be rampant sexual harassment in the high-tech work environment, there persistent employment and contract policies that work to prevent aggrieved employees from speaking up and taking a stand.

Often, tech employees in the Bay Area and other locations must sign non-disclosure agreements under which they promise to not reveal trade secrets, as well as non-disparagement clauses that work to silence workers who experience harassment at work. “Add that to the reluctance of many women to speak up for fear of reprisals, and experts say the vast majority of sexual harassment stays in the shadows – making meaningful change difficult,” reported The Mercury News.

In addition to these agreements, many companies ask their employees to sign away their rights to go to court regarding employment issues, including sexual harassment instances. Workers are instead forced by these agreements into private arbitration, in which their claims may never be made public. Many local tech companies in the Valley like Uber, Google and Oracle routinely use arbitration clauses in employee agreements.

“By and large this stuff is buried,” Lieff Cabraser’s Kelly M. Dermody told The Mercury News. “More than half the sexual harassment claims that cross my desk are never made public.”

It is becoming more and more common for companies to include various legal clauses within their employment contracts as a way of silencing their workers and preventing them from bringing about lawsuits.

“These days, one online accusation of sexual harassment can have massive ramifications for a company,” noted The Mercury News, “[T]ake former Uber engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti, whose blog post sparked a chain reaction that ultimately led to the ouster of CEO Travis Kalanick.”

Upholding Employee Rights

Lieff Cabraser has a strong tradition of fighting for employee rights across America. Our employment law class action cases challenge discrimination based on employees’ race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability; wage violations, including failure to pay overtime, break time, or vacation time; and misuse of employees’ retirement benefits. We also represent employees who “blow the whistle” on wrongdoing by their employers as well as in other cases alleging violations of the law.

Attorney Kelly Dermody

About Kelly Dermody

The Chair of Lieff Cabraser’s employment practice group and Managing Partner of Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office, Kelly Dermody supervises many of the most significant and challenging employment lawsuits in our nation today, including the recently-filed gender discrimination case against Sandia National Labs and other cases challenging gender and race discrimination by top Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Fortune 100 firms; wage suppression claims against technology, healthcare, and academic institutions; overtime and lost pay lawsuits for low-wage workers, I/T professionals, and foreign nationals working for American corporations; and ERISA claims that she has tried on behalf of employees and retirees for pension plan abuses.