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Tiger's Mistress: Confidentiality Agreements in Wisconsin
A recent article on FoxSports.Com, carried the news that one of Tiger Wood’s mistresses has returned most of the hush money she received from the now infamous golfer. What does this have to do with employment law? Actually nothing, except that the scenario illustrates the dilemma faced by employers and employees when confronting an allegation that an employee has violated a confidentiality agreement. Such agreements are almost always included in post-employment severance and settlement agreements.
Woods paid his mistress millions of dollars in return for a confidentiality agreement that prevented her from speaking to the media about their affair (disclosing information that Woods believed should be confidential). Apparently the mistress, Rachel Uchitel, went on a celebrity television show that Woods alleged violated the confidentiality clause although she never mentioned him by name during the show.
Worried that she may have to return all of the money and the exposure for additional damages, she returned an undisclosed amount which has been characterized as “most” of the settlement money.
This highlights two (2) lessons when using confidentiality agreements. The first lesson is to define what language or behavior will violate the agreement. The second is to decide whether enforcement of a confidentiality agreement would result in greater exposure of the asserted confidential information than not.
Employers should carefully consider exactly what information is to be protected, what conduct or writings would violate that protection, and make sure that the clause is specifically agreed to.
By the way, Ms. Uchitel is suing the lawyer that negotiated the agreement on her behalf for advising her to pay the money back. But that is the subject of another story.