A cautionary tale for employees - an employer can and very likely will sue you, if you breach the confidentiality clause of an employment law settlement agreement. Just ask Jan Wong, a former employee of the Globe and Mail ("the Globe").
Upon her dismissal from the Globe in May 2008, Ms. Wong's union filed a series of grievances against the newspaper. The outcome of the grievances were very favourable to Ms. Wong. Not only was she awarded six months of sick-leave pay. She also received an additional lump sum of $209,912, equivalent to two years of wages.
Her settlement agreement explicitly stated she was "not to disclose the terms of this settlement."
- her legal dispute with the Globe;
- "I had just been paid a pile of money to go away"';
- "two weeks later, a big fat check landed in my account"; and,
- that the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the parties did not provide for a "gag order."
As this case demonstrates, a settlement agreement is a legally enforceable contract. In exchange for valuable consideration (for example, in the case of a dismissed employee, consideration would be the employee's monetary entitlements), an employer often requires that an employee sign a non-disclosure clause in a settlement agreement. A breach of the non-disclosure clause is a breach of contract, for which an employer may seek damages, which could include repayment of the entire settlement amount plus the employer's legal costs.