The nondisclosure agreements Trump campaign employees had to sign cover a broad scope of individuals and entities, including Trump’s family, and have no time limit.
MANHATTAN (CN) — The Trump campaign had staffers sign unreasonably vague nondisclosure agreements, which extend forever in time and cover virtually any business associated with the Trump family, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling that the agreement is unenforceable as it pertains for a former phone bank employee.
The ruling turns around the outcome for Jessica Denson, who first sued the campaign to elect Donald Trump for sexual harassment and discrimination in 2018.
That prompted arbitration in which it was determined that Denson violated nondisclosure rules by filing her complaint.
Although the Trump campaign was awarded $49,508 plus interest, a Manhattan federal court denied confirmation of the award, which was later vacated by a state appellate division.
Tuesday’s ruling concerns Denson’s class action suit that followed, seeking a judgment that the employment agreement she signed with the Trump campaign is void.
U.S. District Judge Judge Paul G. Gardephe granted summary judgment “to the extent that the Employment Agreement’s nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions … will be declared invalid and unenforceable as to Denson.”
Gardephe, a George W. Bush appointee, addressed the employment agreement’s nondisclosure provision, finding it was not reasonably definite.
“As to the scope of the provision, it is — as a practical matter — unlimited,” the judge wrote in his 36-page opinion.
He noted that the confidential information section included 35 categories, many of them vague, like “personal life,” “relationships,” and “political and business affairs.”
“In short, the categories of ‘Confidential Information’ are sufficiently broad and vague to cover any information about President Trump and his family members,” Gardephe wrote.
The nondisclosure provision also did not spell out a time limit, continuing indefinitely, and it covered a broad scope of individuals and entities.
“The provision applies not only to President Trump and his family members — including unnamed spouses, children, and grandchildren,” Gardephe wrote, but also to any legal entity created partly for the benefit of, or controlled or owned by, Trump or any of his family members.
“President Trump himself is affiliated with more than 500 companies, and his family members may be affiliated with yet more,” Gardephe noted.
Speaking through Protect Democracy, one of the organizations backing her, Denson on Tuesday called the ruling in her favor “beautiful.”
“The former president and his campaign have been waging an all-out war on truth, aided in no small part by unfettered NDAs that bullied his workers into silence for eternity,” Denson said in a statement.
“Today’s beautiful ruling rebukes this unmitigated censorship,” she continued. “And I am so grateful that my years of trial have resulted in this illegal roadblock to transparency, accountability, and justice being struck down.”
Joe Slaughter, an attorney at Ballard Spahr LLP, one of the firms representing Denton, said the decision “underscores the limited purposes for which NDAs may be used in New York.”
“Organizations can use NDAs to protect legitimate trade secrets and confidential commercial information,” Slaughter said. “They cannot use unlimited NDAs to silence employees from ever uttering anything an employer dislikes.”
The parties are ordered to let the court know in a joint filing how they will proceed following the order. An attorney for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.