Condé Nast, the publishing giant behind Vogue, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, said on Friday that it would no longer use nondisclosure agreements for matters involving harassment and discrimination.
Stan Duncan, the company’s chief people officer, laid out Condé Nast’s new stance in a memo to employees that was shared with The New York Times.
“There are legitimate arguments in favor of NDAs in certain circumstances, which is why their use remains widespread — confidential settlements can spare both employees and employers the cost of litigation, and maintain privacy for all involved,” Mr. Duncan wrote.
“However, given our company’s values and commitment to transparency,” he added, “we have decided that going forward, we will no longer enter into NDAs that prevent an employee from making a disclosure of conduct they were subjected to that they believe, in good faith, constitutes harassment, discrimination or retaliation. We also expect to release existing NDAs in these matters.”
The executive added that the company would release people from existing nondisclosure agreements related to those matters on a case-by-case basis.
The use of nondisclosure agreements for workers who make complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination has become a point of contention in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and The New Yorker has been at the forefront of the discussion. The magazine won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for Ronan Farrow’s investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by the film producer Harvey Weinstein, which involved the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence his accusers. (The Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey were also awarded the Pulitzer that year for their investigation into Mr. Weinstein.)
Mr. Weinstein is currently on trial, accused of rape, in Manhattan.
During the Democratic presidential primary debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren criticized Michael R. Bloomberg for the use of nondisclosure agreements at his company, Bloomberg L.P. He had refused to release some female former employees from agreements they signed after accusing him of harassment and discrimination. (Mr. Bloomberg announced on Friday that he would release three women from nondisclosure agreements if they contacted the company.)
Condé Nast’s decision to limit the use of nondisclosure agreements was reported earlier by The Daily Beast.
The union that represents employees at The New Yorker and the Condé Nast publications Pitchfork and Ars Technica had proposed that the company drop nondisclosure agreements at the bargaining table for The New Yorker in November, said Susan DeCarava, the president of the union, the NewsGuild of New York.
“We had been having a conversation throughout our union that I think was mirrored culturally and socially about the damage that NDAs cause in workplaces,” Ms. DeCarava said.
“It has been particularly acute for our membership, in part because many of our members are among those who broke stories about rampant misconduct, abuse and harassment,” she added. “There’s also the hypocrisy of media companies on one hand employing people to expose these things and on the other hand utilizing these very same mechanisms, oftentimes in the very same newsroom.”
Ms. DeCarava said Condé Nast’s announcement was welcome, but urged the company to include the new policy in its formal agreements with the union. She added that the NewsGuild hoped the company would broaden the policy and release anyone who had signed a nondisclosure agreement, without exception.
A Condé Nast spokesman said the company had been reviewing its use of nondisclosure agreements since the merger of its American and international businesses last year.
The New Yorker Union, which is part of the NewsGuild, said in a statement on Friday that it was encouraged by the new policy, but added that Condé Nast should “commit itself to the elimination of this dangerous practice.”