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Louisville set to restrict city-funded groups from silencing workplace abuse allegations

Limp purple flags on short white poles in a row in a grassy area.
J. Tyler Franklin
/
LPM
An investigation last year found Racing Louisville FC entered into a non-disclosure agreement to limit discussion of a former coach's abuse of a player.

Louisville Metro Council is expected to pass an ordinance on Thursday that aims to stop city contractors from requiring their employees to keep quiet about abuse.

The measure was introduced in October and is co-sponsored by Democrats Jecorey Arthur of District 4 and Cassie Chambers Armstrong of District 8. It applies to groups that receive at least $50,000 in city contracts or incentives.

Under the law, these employers would be banned from entering into settlement agreements preventing or restricting the disclosure of workplace discrimination, harassment or sexual assault. Employers would also be prohibited from making workers sign non-disclosure agreements about such abuses to keep their job or get a raise.

Employers would also have to report any complaints about workplace sexual harassment or assault to the city every year as long as they’re on contract or still receiving incentives. Any organizations that violate the ordinance would be banned from doing more business with Louisville Metro for five years.

The council’s labor and economic development committee unanimously voted in favor of the ordinance last week.

“The reason we are doing this is to make sure that we are not using our citizens’ tax dollars to cover up sexual harassment and sexual assault,” said Chambers Armstrong, who advocated for the bill at the meeting.

The ordinance also includes a provision that would allow employees who report experiencing sexual harassment or assault at work to enter into settlements to protect their identity.

Arthur said at the meeting that employers’ reporting requirements wouldn’t divulge personal information.

“We’re looking for numbers and the bigger picture of what might’ve happened when we get these reports. But it’s not like one specific individual will be getting exposed for whatever allegations or whatever incidents took place at that workplace,” he said.

U.S. Congress passed a bill in November to make non-disclosure agreements signed before workplace sexual harassment or assault occurs legally unenforceable. It was later signed into law.

It is unclear if Louisville’s ordinance intends to allow employees to publicly discuss alleged workplace misconduct or to more narrowly make it possible for them to communicate issues to groups like law enforcement and federal agencies. Chambers Armstrong and Arthur did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

In October, an independent investigation into the National Women’s Soccer League found that leaders of the Racing Louisville soccer club signed an NDA with former head coach Christy Holly over his alleged sexual abuse of a player. It also alleged the club used the agreement to avoid fully cooperating with investigators.

“The team insists that the NDA prohibits anyone associated with the team—even former employees—from speaking at all about Holly’s tenure with the team, including in connection with this investigation,” the report said.

The owners of Racing Louisville, who also own the men’s team Louisville City, received millions in local and state funding in 2018 to finance their Butchertown stadium. Chambers Armstrong referenced the investigation’s findings when announcing the ordinance on social media last fall.

The NWSL sanctioned Racing Louisville and Holly last month after releasing its own commissioned report into league-wide abuse.

Note: If you or a loved one has experienced sexual assault or harassment, contact the confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673 to be connected to a provider in your area.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.