Women’s advocacy group UltraViolet called on the Democratic National Committee to keep former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg off the debate stage until the billionaire releases his former employees from non-disclosure agreements about alleged mistreatment at his company.
The group reiterated its call Thursday after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) lambasted Bloomberg over the dozens of sexual harassment allegations against him and his company and for refusing to release the women from NDAs at Wednesday night’s presidential debate. UltraViolet originally circulated a petition ahead of the debate regarding the issue.
“Forcing people who have endured harassment or abuse to stay silent for the sake of saving face on the campaign trail is unacceptable,” UltraViolet’s executive director, Shaunna Thomas, said in a statement. “Warren was right to challenge Bloomberg on his refusal to do so—pointing out that the only way to know what truly happened, would be to let these individuals tell their stories in their own words.”
At least 17 women have taken legal action against Bloomberg’s media company over the past three decades, alleging a hostile environment for women. At least three plaintiffs specifically named Bloomberg as making inappropriate remarks, while some sued the company for wrongful termination and gender discrimination.
Bloomberg has refused to release women from NDAs they signed as part of settlements, according to Vox. As The Nation reported Wednesday, Bloomberg has also demanded that his campaign employees sign NDAs with language that could keep managers from ever being held accountable for abusive behavior.
Such secrecy about the treatment of workers under Bloomberg’s leadership could harm the Democratic Party’s chances to defeat President Donald Trump in November, UltraViolet says. The president has similar allegations against him from at least 24 women.
“We already have a sexual predator in the White House in Donald Trump,” wrote UltraViolet in its petition. “Silencing employees and encouraging a toxic work environment cannot be the new normal.”
The group pointed to guidance it released last year for presidential candidates, which called on Democrats to commit to transparency and to keeping their campaign staffers safe at work.
Campaigns were advised to adopt a clear complaint process for employees, to investigate claims of harassment and abuse promptly and thoroughly, and to not require NDAs relating to harassment complaints.
“Voters want change, and for candidates to credibly carry this message they need to ensure their own workplaces—their campaigns—are safe,” said UltraViolet when it released the guidance last year. “They must ensure they have the right practices in place to prevent sexual assault and harassment and to handle allegations when they do happen. If progressives in particular cannot get it right in our own workplaces, we lack the moral authority to lead the country on this issue.”