NDA Trump: Former Staff Member Jessica Denson Initiates Class Action

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire on February 8, 2016. (Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post)

A former Trump campaign official on Wednesday filed a class action suit seeking to rescind all confidentiality agreements that had been forced to sign by campaign staff, calling the documents "unenforceable" and "abusive".

The complaint, filed by former employee Jessica Denson with the American Arbitration Association, argues that the NDA is too broad, too vague and can be used to retaliate against employees who complain of legitimate grievances in a working environment.

The action opens another front in the battle between President Trump, his campaign and his former injured staff members. Trump – as a businessman, candidate and president – has long favored these agreements as a defense against fugitives and potential detractors.

Current and former contributors told The Washington Post in August that Trump's widespread use of NDAs exemplified the paranoid culture of leaks, sound recordings and internal strife that had been part of Trump's transactions for decades.

Denson's lawyers, David Bowles and Maury Josephson, felt that just in the Trump campaign, thousands of employees, contractors and volunteers had been forced to sign agreements binding them to secrecy and the preventing making derogatory statements about Trump, his campaign. or his family.

To date, Bowles and Josephson have stated that this action was Trump's biggest challenge to using the NDA, which could have consequences for other campaigning and administrative officials who signed identical or similar agreements.

"My client thinks the campaign is using these NDAs as a club against workers who want to express themselves and against anyone who wants to make a comment that could be interpreted as a criticism of the US president," Bowles said.

BuzzFeed News first reported the class action lawsuit. The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Denson's case, which was brought to the state courts, federal courts and arbitration, began when she brought a workplace discrimination and harassment lawsuit against the Trump campaign in 2017.

She was hired by the campaign in August 2016 as a phone bank administrator and was promoted to the position of director of the Hispanic Engagement, the court said. Bowles stated that she was subsequently subjected to intimidation, harassment and sexual discrimination.

After Denson's prosecution, the Trump campaign reacted with an arbitration action claiming that Denson had "violated obligations of confidentiality and non-disparagement" by "publishing certain confidential information and disparaging statements in the course of a dispute." court action against the plaintiff ", according to court documents.

Campaign counsel asked Denson to pay $ 1.5 million in damages and lawyers, and one arbitrator found Denson had violated his NDA and sentenced him to pay close to $ 50,000 .

Denson's lawyers said the action was retaliatory and called it "fictitious arbitration", and Denson challenged the arbitrator's decision in federal and state courts.

In the meantime, this class action seeks to invalidate the basis of the Trump complaint: the NDA itself.

Denson's NDA, submitted as part of his court file, presents a litany of prohibited actions and apparently bars them forever. An example:

"For the duration of your service and at any time thereafter, you hereby agree not to publicly depreciate or denigrate the Company, Mr. Trump, a Trump Group Company, a family member, a member firm of the family or any other element of the foregoing. possess, or offer a product or service, any of the above-mentioned offers, in any particular case or by any of the limited means and contexts, and to prevent your employees from doing so. "

The agreement also defines "confidential information" as anything that "Mr. Trump insists on being private or confidential, including, but not limited to, any information regarding the personal life, political affairs and / or affairs of Mr. Trump or any family member. "

"There may be appropriate circumstances for an NDA, but this is quite exaggerated," said Josephson.

Denson's NDA is similar to others in the Trump orbit that have been made public – particularly the one the campaign would have given to Omarosa Manigault Newman as part of a job offer after he left the White House. She refused the job and did not sign the agreement. But, while Manigault Newman was publishing his book "Deranged," revealing Trump's administration, Trump brought an action in arbitration against her, claiming that she had violated a previous NDA.

Trump's lawyers also filed a suit in arbitration against former White House communications associate Cliff Sims, who had written another insider account, "Team of Vipers". Sims then filed a lawsuit, accusing the president of using an NDA to violate his first-amendment rights. .

The White House Trump would have also demanded that White House officials sign agreements – an action that legal observers have described as unprecedented for public sector employees who do not have to deal with highly confidential information. The ACLU has described such agreements as "unconstitutional and unenforceable".

In an interview with The Post in 2016, Trump – still a presidential candidate – expressed his affinity for the NDA and his confidence in those he distributed to his associates.

"I think they're extremely airtight," Trump said. "And whoever has raped her – let's say it: it's so tight that I've never done it. . . you know, I never had a problem with that kind of thing.

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