Sexual Harassment Claims Dismissed in Light of Settlement Agreement and General Release; Defendant’s Actions Did Not Violate “One Sided” Confidentiality and Non-Disparagement Provisions

In Chandler v. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co. et al, 2018 WL 357294 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 10, 2018), the court dismissed plaintiff’s claims of, inter alia, sexual harassment.

In an attempt to evade dismissal, plaintiff argued that the terms of the Separation Agreement and Release she executed “have been invalidated due to the actions of Defendant” after their execution – namely, the violation of the confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions.

The court rejected that argument, reasoning:

[T]he terms of the Release regarding confidentiality and non-disparagement applied only to Plaintiff. Specifically, the relevant portions of the provision entitled “Confidentiality and Non-Disparagement” state as follows: “You shall refrain from all conduct, verbal or otherwise, that disparages or damages or could disparage or damage the reputation, goodwill, or standing in the community of the Company or any of the other Released parties.” [] Similarly, the Release states that “you shall not disclose the existence or terms of this Agreement to any third parties ….” [] As Defendants correctly argue, there are no similar provisions requiring HMH and/or its employees to refrain from discussing the Release with third parties or making negative statements about Plaintiff.

On this basis, the court dismissed the majority of plaintiff’s claims.

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