The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the arbitrator’s award in this action based upon a non-disclosure, non-disparagement agreement (NDA) was against public policy and exceeded the arbitrator’s authority. Plaintiff was employed by defendant, Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. She signed the NDA as a condition of her employment. Plaintiff brought an employment discrimination action in Supreme Court alleging a hostile work environment, sexual discrimination, defamation and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Pursuant to the NDA defendant demanded arbitration. Plaintiff then started a federal lawsuit seeking a declaration that the NDA was void and unenforceable and defendant, pursuant to the NDA again demanded arbitration. The arbitrator found plaintiff had breached the NDA by disclosing confidential information in the federal action and making disparaging comments on her GoFundMe pages and on her Twitter account. The First Department held the information disclosed in the federal action was protected by privilege and the comments posted on the Internet were not part of the defendant’s demand for arbitration:
Plaintiff’s negative statements about defendant, for which the arbitrator made an award, were made in the context of the federal action in which she sought a declaration that the NDA was unenforceable … . By concluding that the allegations in the federal action are tantamount to disclosure of confidential information violative of the NDA, the arbitrator improperly punished plaintiff for availing herself of a judicial forum. Defendant is hard-pressed to explain how plaintiff could have pursued her rights without setting forth necessary factual statements for the federal court to consider.
The remainder of the award was based upon certain Twitter “Tweets” and statements on a GoFundMe page. The nature of the Demand to Arbitrate, however, was limited to statements made “in connection” with this state action. * * * Defendant relies on plaintiff’s actions subsequent to the date of its Demand to Arbitrate in an effort to have the arbitration award confirmed. Since the award takes into account events occurring after the demand, which could not have been legitimately considered at arbitration, the award was made in excess of the arbitrator’s enumerated authority. Denson v Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., 2020 NY Slip Op 00923, First Dept 2-6-20