2018-19 Schwartz Lecture on Dispute Resolution

“Pass-the-Trash”: How Universities Use Non-Disclosure Agreements to Protect Sexual Predators

Professor Julie Macfarlane | March 20, 2019 at 12:00 p.m. | Saxbe Auditorium 

Registration is now open

The use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in cases involving termination for sexual misconduct has garnered growing attention. Plaintiffs’ lawyers frequently utilize NDAs to ensure that their clients may transfer to another position without the circumstances of their dismissal becoming known. Universities and other employers often see these Faustian deals as a way to head off potentially costly legal defenses, and as a sweetener to encourage settlement.

A strong moral case can be made against NDAs for terminations involving sexual misconduct (assault, harassment). Moreover, case law is emerging in the United States and Canada that holds NDAs to be unenforceable on public policy grounds, where public institutions such as universities use them without regard for student or public safety. In her lecture, Professor Macfarlane will consider procedures and processes universities could adopt in order to ensure that NDAs are not permitted in such circumstances, and that termination decisions predicated on sexual misconduct are supported by thorough, competent investigations and fact-finding.

About Professor Julie Macfarlane

Professor Macfarlane is a Full Professor in the Faculty of Law, and will be awarded a University of Windsor Professorship (the highest honour of the University) in the Fall of 2014. She has published widely in the area of conflict resolution, mediation, and legal practice. She is the author of the bestselling “The New Lawyer: How Settlement is Transforming the Practice of Law” (University of British Columbia Press 2008). Her student textbook “Dispute Resolution: Readings and Case Studies” is just going into its 4th edition (Emond Montgomery 2015). Both these texts are used widely in law schools throughout North America. In 2012 Julie completed a four year empirical study of Islamic divorce and published “Islamic Divorce in North America: A Shari’a Path in a Secular Society” (Oxford University Press), attracting much public and media interest.

Her new project is the National Self-Represented Litigants Project established at Windsor Law in the wake of the momentum created by her national study of self-representation, published in 2013. Professor Macfarlane is also an active mediator and dispute resolution consultant to a wide range of organizations and government agencies.


About the Schwartz Lecture on Dispute Resolution

The Schwartz Lecture on Dispute Resolution was established in 1992 as a result of the generosity of the late Stanley Schwartz Jr. (a 1947 Moritz College of Law graduate) and the Schwartz family. Each lecture is published in the interdisciplinary Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, in keeping with Mr. Schwartz’s interest in the promotion of scholarly publication in the area of dispute resolution.

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