In a timely discussion of one of Hollywood's key methods for protecting its power players, the Los Angeles Times highlights a particularly eye-opening example of a non-disclosure agreement from Greenhour Corporation, Leonardo DiCaprio's production company, which appears to require employees to give up any rights to sue the actor or the company for all kinds of offenses, "including harassment, invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress."
The Times obtained a copy of one of Greenhour's NDAs from a few years ago and found what some legal analysts concluded are very troubling clauses in the agreement. LA Times writer James Rufus Koren sums up what the NDA asked of its signees:
Prospective workers were asked to consent to confidentiality agreements that not only prevented them from disclosing private information about the actor, but also a long list of “offensive/inappropriate material” they may be exposed to in the development of films and other projects.
What’s more, a copy of the agreement reviewed by The Times appears to demand that workers give up their rights to sue DiCaprio or Greenhour over a wide variety of claims, including harassment, invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress — “whether or not in connection with the development” of DiCaprio-related projects.
According to the document, Greenhour forbids employees from revealing information about DiCaprio, his family members and friends or even revealing that the contractor is doing business with DiCaprio or the company at all. But the most troubling parts are the clauses addressing the "offensive/inappropriate material" that prospective employees cannot discuss and the misleading suggestion that employees cannot sue the actor or the company:
It states that contractors on a project “may acquire information or material of an explicit, graphic, offensive, sexual and/or inappropriate nature,” and be in situations where “as part of the creative process, conversations, jokes, banter and behavior may contain explicit references to sex, gender, race, sexual orientation, violence and other protected categories.”
Another provision in the agreement appears to demand that workers give up their rights to sue DiCaprio or related companies. The document requires contractors, however, to report to a supervisor if they feel harassed or threatened.
When the LA Times asked two legal analysts what they thought about the NDA, they agreed that the language was over the top — one calling it "wildly overboard" — and appeared to be designed to give the "erroneous" impression that employees could not sue, which they suggested would not be enforceable in courts.
One unnamed "freelance technician," who spoke to the LA Times on condition of anonymity, said he chose to turn down a job with Greenhour because of the "offensive" agreement. NDAs have "gotten increasingly oppressive" in recent years, he added.
Such NDAs have become relatively "standard" in the industry, Koren notes, and many of the clauses have been added in direct response to legitimate legal issues in the past. While "overboard" NDAs are certainly not an indicator that a company or individual is involved in any sketchy dealings, they have been abused by some who are. For example, Koren notes that similarly restrictive nondisclosure agreements were allegedly used by Harvey Weinstein to reach settlements with accusers.