NDAs were once used exclusively to protect bona fide trade secrets, but today's Big Tech companies force new hires to sign far-ranging NDAs that exceed the law in many ways (for example, by banning employees from discussing illegal workplace conditions), as a means of "terrorizing" employees into keeping their mouths shut, lest they face threats from the company's high-powered lawyers.
A few companies have relaxed their NDA policies (Uber was forced to weaken its NDA to allow employees to report sexual harassment after a string of embarrassing revelations), but the majority of Big Tech firms are using NDAs that keep employees (and the public) in the dark about illegal wage-gaps (based on race or sex), sexual harassment, and dangerous workplace practices -- and to harass and intimidate ex-employees who go to work for competitors.
And of course, while Big Tech may have pioneered these tactics, they've leaked out into many other industries, and even to the White House.
The upshot is that, for now, any checks on the use of NDAs may have to come from political leaders. In the same way that state attorneys general have begun to target the misuse of noncompete agreements that limit employees when switching jobs, lawmakers theoretically could punish companies that use NDAs for anything other than protecting bona fide trade secrets.
Why You Should Be Worried About Tech's Love Affair With NDAs [Jeff John Roberts/Fortune]
(via Naked Capitalism)