Trump Campaign Sued by Ex-Staffer in Bid to End Secrecy Pact
(Bloomberg) -- A former employee of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team is seeking to nullify a non-disclosure agreement, saying it potentially put her on the hook to pay $1.5 million because she sued the organization for discrimination and harassment.
Jessica Denson, a Los Angeles-based actress, is the third woman who has sought to void a secrecy agreement involving Trump; the adult film star Stormy Daniels sued to block a pact that she alleges forced her to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump, and former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, sued the parent company of the National Enquirer to void a deal that she says forced her to stay silent about an affair she had with him.
Denson says she joined Trump’s campaign in August 2016 and oversaw phone banks and Hispanic outreach for the campaign. She sued in November seeking $25 million in damages, claiming her superiors on the campaign defamed her, harassed her and discriminated against her. The Trump campaign responded by attempting to move the lawsuit to arbitration, where it submitted a claim for $1.5 million saying Denson breached the confidentiality and non-disparagement obligations of the non-disclosure agreement.
Denson, whose screen credits include the CBS crime drama "Person of Interest," is representing herself in the lawsuits. In her filing, she described herself as a "lifelong advocate for the bullied and the voiceless, both human and animal." She declined to provide additional comment when contacted by phone.
Trump’s use of confidentiality agreements is a widespread requirement for those who have worked on his campaign, his transition team, and in his administration.
Michael Avenatti, Daniels’s lawyer who said he had been approached by other women who had Trump-related non-disclosure agreements, declined to comment on whether Denson had been one of them. The Trump campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Denson’s confidentiality agreement, a copy of which was filed with the lawsuit, prohibits disparagement and disclosure of confidential information about Trump, his company and family members including Eric and Donald Jr., Ivanka, Tiffany and even Barron, the president’s 12-year-old son.
“Confidential Information” as defined in the agreement means all information “that Mr. Trump insists remain private” and covers, among a multitude of things, his personal life, political affairs, appointments, notes and conversations.
The agreement stays in place even after termination of employment or the end of an independent-contractor relationship.
Denton agreed not to challenge the resolution of any dispute in arbitration.
Denson sought a judge’s order to declare the NDA unenforceable because she said it’s being used to thwart her assertion of legal rights in a lawsuit. In the March 26 filing in Manhattan federal court, she also claimed the NDA violates public policy and is too vague and too broad.
The discrimination lawsuit didn’t disclose any confidential information prohibited by the agreement, Denson said. She said she was enforcing her legal right to address harassment and the hostile-work environment she endured during the campaign.
After getting promoted to head the Hispanic outreach program during the campaign, Denson said her supervisors began an aggressive conspiracy to sabotage her, including trying to “find dirt” on her, getting the Secret Service involved, and finding a way to get her fired.
She said she sent an email to Trump confidantes Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon, notifying them of what was being said about her, “but neither replied.”
Denson was also blamed by a supervisor for leaking Trump’s tax returns, an allegation she denies.
The case is Denson v. Donald J. Trump for President Inc., 18-cv-2690, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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