Can Employers Force You To Only Say Nice Things About Them?
Non-disparagement clauses hold workers back from criticizing the company, during or after employment. Or do they?
So I’m reading a U.S. magazine, and my eyeballs pop at this headline: Staffers at Company X Can Never Say Anything Bad About the Employer Ever Again. Say what?
What dropped my jaw was “Ever Again.” Seems staff were asked to sign a “non-disparagement” clause, hardly rare. But this one forbids public dissing till earth stops whirling. Even if they’ve treated you like scum.
Struck me as savagely restrictive. So I checked into Canada’s rules. Found out that if included in your employment contract, this kind of clause might – or might not – be enforceable here.
To employers, it’s anything that shrivels their shine. Posting about your boss’s freakish outbursts. Tweeting how you were hurled out after years of loyal service. Companies can be so touchy.
Non-disparagement clauses are a kind of restrictive covenant. Too lawyerly? Alright, they’re legal words saying you can’t state anything false, critical or wrong about the hand that feeds ya. Used to be they were for a fixed term, like so long as you’re working there. Or when they’re paying severance after hoofing you to the curb.
Is It The Same As Confidentiality?
Confidentiality clauses are in just about every employment agreement. They prevent you from motor-mouthing company secrets.
Sometimes firms argue that any insider dope about them’s private. So if they forgot to mention non-disparagement, it’s covered under privacy anyway. No dice. They’re separate.
Are Non-Disparagement Clauses Enforceable?
Depends on how they’re written. Just because this type of wording’s in a contract don’t make it legally binding. It might be too broad or overly straightjacketing.
So it usually gets granular. Thou shall not shite upon our impeccable management style, glorious methods of doing business, quality of products and services, role in the community, callous treatment of disposable labour like you, etc. Violate these commands and courts could force you to return severance!
Now about that in perpetuity (forever) bit. Puts terminated folk in a vice: sign the release, get severance and zip lips till death; or refuse, get bupkus and litigate. Over freedom to go volcano with grievances. Courts are mixed on your rights when being terminated if employers turn tyrant.
What If There’s Nothing About Disparagement?
Hurrah, the contract’s blank regarding badmouthing. You’re free to mock away, right? Technically kinda. Note though that public negativity could be used against you.
It was when a labourer who was fired posted that the company was a s—t hole. Shade like that helped prove the employer’s case that the dumpee had thumbed his nose at management, and deserved termination for cause.
Can Employers Be Gagged Too?
Ahh, quid pro quo. Mutual non-disparagement shuts the employer up as well. If they want you mute, try to negotiate the severance package likewise. Then your rep’s protected.
Not that this makes permanence acceptable. However, that’s where things stand till more case law’s established.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not legal advice. Consult with an employment law specialist for specific recommendations.