There are so many lawsuits swirling around the Trump administration that it can be hard to keep track of them. So you may not have heard that a former Trump campaign staffer is suing the campaign for harassment and discrimination.
Jessica Denson’s suit claims that she was subjected to “severe and pervasive slander, aggravated harassment, attempted theft, cyberbullying, and sexual discrimination and harassment” by her former manager Camilo Sandoval and other staffers during her work on the Trump campaign. She is seeking $25 million in damages.
Trump’s attorneys responded to the lawsuit by requesting arbitration and asking for $1.5 million in damages from Denson for revealing information in filing the suit that they say was confidential under the nondisclosure agreement she signed. Now, a judge in Manhattan has ruled that the wording of the NDA was insufficient to force Denson into arbitration. (Sandoval, who now works at the Department of Veterans Affairs, has made no apparent public comment on the suit. We have reached out to the VA for comment and will update if we hear back.)
“As an initial matter, the Court observes that the arbitration clause confines arbitration to ‘any dispute arising under or relating to this agreement,’” [Judge Arlene Bluth of the New York Supreme Court] wrote, adding with emphasis, “It does not require arbitration for any ‘dispute between the parties’ or even ‘any dispute arising out of plaintiff’s employment.’” [...]
The judge also found that the agreement only covers “a specific list of five prohibited acts” rather than all aspects of Denson’s employment. The document provided for “no disclosure of confidential information, no disparagement, no competitive services, no competitive solicitation, and no competitive intellectual property claims.”
“There is simply no way to construe this arbitration clause in this agreement to prevent … pursuing harassment claims in court. The arbitration clause could have been written to require any disputes arising out of … employment to go to arbitration. … But it did not,” wrote Bluth.
Denson, who is representing herself, tweeted a copy of the order:
Though Denson’s claims may or may not be strong enough to end in a decision granting her the requested $25 million, the judge’s decision on the agreement she signed may have wider implications for the administration. Trump is currently suing Omarosa Manigault Newman for breaking the NDA she signed by publishing her account of her time on staff in her new book, and releasing secretly recorded audio of her time in the White House. That agreement has been deemed potentially unenforceable and illegal, but if it’s anything like Denson’s, it might have come with some humungous loopholes anyway.