New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who oversees the $200.2 billion New York City Retirement Systems, has called on Google parent Alphabet and broadcasting company CBS to end what he called “inequitable employment practices” that force employees to forgo their ability to challenge unlawful discrimination and harassment.
The NYC funds issued shareholder proposals that were submitted to both companies, urging them to end the mandatory arbitration of employment-related claims, noncompete agreements with employees, agreements with other companies not to recruit each other’s employees, and involuntary nondisclosure agreements (NDAs).
“These fine print agreements have damaging consequences for workers, investors, and the public,” said Stringer in a release. “Mandatory arbitration and forced non-disclosure silence workers and keep misconduct in the shadows. No-poaching agreements and non-competes can suppress pay and keep employees from leaving hostile workplaces.”
Stringer added that “these exploitative practices aren’t just wrong on a human level, they have a wide impact on our broader economy.”
The proposals, which were submitted on behalf of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), New York City Police Pension Fund (Police), and Board of Education Retirement System (BERS), will be voted on in the upcoming year, and will be included in Alphabet and CBS’ proxy ballots.
The proposals cited Washington state’s recent ban of NDAs in sexual harassment cases and said similar legislation that has been proposed in New York, California, and Pennsylvania. It also said federal legislation has been introduced to limit employers’ ability to secure NDAs upfront and require employers to disclose information about sexual harassment claims.
“NDAs were allegedly used to keep sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly secret,” said the proposals, “and the #MeToo movement has drawn substantial attention to this problem.”
According to Stringer, companies have increasingly relied on a series of contractual arrangements with their employees that put strict limits workers’ ability to seek remedies for workplace misconduct and wrongdoing, including sexual harassment and discrimination.
“Corporations and boards of directors that continue to rely on the forced silencing of their employees are creating long-term reputational and regulatory risks for their companies and their investors,” said Stringer. “We’re committed to using our power as shareowners to unstack the deck, improve accountability, and position these companies for sustained growth.”