More than sixteen years ago, state Sen. Anthony R. Bucco, now 80, found himself in the middle of a sexual harassment scandal. His former legislative aide alleged that her job on Bucco’s Senate staff required that she engage in a sexual relationship with him. A harassment suit was filed in federal court against Bucco and the New Jersey Senate that was eventually settled by Bucco in a deal that is sealed from public view.
Jump ahead to 2018, and Bucco (R-Boonton) has become a supporter of transparency. In the Senate Labor Committee, he was one of five senators to support Legislation that would effectively end non-disclosure agreements in settlements involving sexual assault and harassment. He voted yes on Thursday when the Senate approved the bill 35-0.
Now a women’s group in Bucco’s home county wants Bucco to release the details of his settlement of the sexual harassment suit filed against him.
“The Morris County Democratic Women’s Caucus fully supports a bill that will ban secret settlements in sexual harassment lawsuits brought against state legislators,” said Meghan Lynch, the Morris County Democratic Women’s Caucus chair. “The women of Morris County deserve to know the details of the sexual harassment law suit filed by Senator Bucco’s legislative aide against the Senator. We absolutely need more transparency relating to these issues and everyone on both sides of the aisle should be in favor of that.”
Bucco told the New Jersey Globe yesterday that he would not release the settlement.
The bill prohibits employment contracts that waive the rights of victims in cases of discrimination, retaliation, sexual assault or sexual harassment. Non-disclosure agreements have been used in high profile cases across the country. Employees at Harvey Weinstein’s film production company were required to sign NDAs to work there, and Weinstein reached multiple settlements with women that included confidentiality clauses.
“Non-disclosure agreements have been used to silence and intimidate the victims of sexual assault and harassment,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), a primary sponsor of the bill. “Too many victims have been forced to suffer in silence for far too long while the abusers went unpunished as they preyed on more women. Limiting these so-called ‘confidentiality agreements’ will help lift the secrecy that allowed the abuses to continue.”
Weinberg said that secret settlements sometimes endanger the public by hiding sexual predators from law enforcement and the public.
“They are being used by those who have the money to pay,” Weinberg said