Less than a day after Elizabeth Warren prodded him by tweeting out what a sample nondisclosure release looks like, Mike Bloomberg has agreed to let three women end their NDAs with Bloomberg LP. Yes, he has issued a press release announcing that, in addition to releasing the three women, neither his company nor his campaign will sign NDAs going forward. Very brave.
Why would Bloomberg suddenly agree to such a magnanimous gesture after saying just this past Wednesday that “they signed those agreements and we’ll live with it”?
Because the statement is weaselly as hell:
Let us count the ways.
1. The narrow, highly specific language.
While we know that 64 different employees have reportedly filed almost 40 harassment and discrimination lawsuits against Bloomberg and his company, we don’t actually have any idea how many NDAs might have resulted from those various lawsuits. In the statement, Bloomberg writes that the company “identified 3 NDAs that we signed over the past 30-plus years with women to address complaints about comments they said I had made.”
Does that mean he’s excluding NDAs that deal with anything other than complaints about comments from Bloomberg? What about NDAs that deal with more than just comments? And why not just extend the offer to any woman who’s entered into an NDA with the company?
2. The words “they said.”
During Wednesday’s debate, Bloomberg was dismissive of the idea that the NDAs were covering up any actual bad behavior. He painted the women as whiny scolds who couldn’t take a joke. Now, he’s very consciously giving himself room for a denial should the need arise. A denial that would likely lean a lot on the words “they said.” Funny how things change!
3. The fact that the onus is on the women to approach the company.
Once again taking the very specific qualifiers into consideration, how exactly are these women supposed to know if they’re one of three? And why can’t the company just reach out to the women directly?
4. The lack of any actual contact information.
Bloomberg’s statement offers that “if any of them want to be released from their NDAs so that they can talk about those allegations, they should contact the company and they’ll be given a release.” There is, however, no indication of who to approach in this 20,000-employee company, nor is any specific department specified. Do you call the legal department? The department for which you, specifically, had worked? Do you simply shout your request into the nearest Bloomberg terminal and hope for the best? It’s impossible to know for sure.
5. This line, from the full press release on the initiative: “When we support women in the workplace, we advance not just their own feelings of value, but we help them and their families across America live better lives through higher wages.”
Support women, Mike seems to be saying, because it makes them feel special. Humor the gals!
It’s particularly remarkable that, of the many people who surely laid eyes on this statement before it went out, not a one thought there might be another reason to fight for women in the workplace beyond just getting them a little spending money and a self-confidence boost.
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