(CN) — Facing scrutiny over nondisclosure agreements used to quiet female accusers over the years, Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg said Friday that any individual who wishes to speak out should come forward.
“I’ve had the company go back over its record and they’ve identified three NDAs that we signed over the past 30-plus years with women to address complaints about comments they said I had made,” Bloomberg said.
“If any of them want to be released from their NDA so that they can talk about those allegations, they should contact the company and they’ll be given a release. I’ve done a lot of reflecting on this issue over the past few days and I’ve decided that for as long as I’m running the company, we won’t offer confidentiality agreements to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct going forward.”
The announcement came after one of Bloomberg’s rivals on the left, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, targeted the billionaire about the NDAs all night during Wednesday’s debate.
A former law professor, Warren even drew up a release and covenant not to sue this week, saying Bloomberg could sign it to release the women from the agreements.
“I’d like to tell you about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians,’” Warren said in Wednesday’s debate. “And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”
Bloomberg appeared to have been put off his footing by Warren’s attacks. “None of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told,” he said, referring to the women he has given NDAs.
Bloomberg has been accused of telling a pregnant employee to “kill it” — referring to the baby — and of saying about another, “I’d like to do that piece of meat.”
In his statement Friday, Bloomberg promised to have the human resources team at his software and media company consult with experts to “review and reform” equal pay and promotion policies. If elected president, Bloomberg said he will also work to pass the Be Heard Act in Congress, which would legislate efforts to prevent harassment and discrimination. Meantime, he said he has asked his campaign to review its policies on those issues.
“I recognize that NDAs, particularly when they are used in the context of sexual harassment and sexual assault, promote a culture of silence in the workplace and contribute to a culture of women not feeling safe or supported,” he said. “It is imperative that when problems occur, workplaces not only address the specific incidents, but the culture and practices that led to those incidents. And then leaders must act.”
Bloomberg’s company has also been dogged by allegations of sexual assault of female employees by their superiors.