Trump campaign's Hispanic outreach staffer ordered to pay $25,000 for complaining about discrimination: report
On Monday, BuzzFeed News reported that Jessica Denson, a staffer on President Donald Trump's campaign who helped run Hispanic outreach, was ordered in a secret arbitration proceeding to pay a five-figure settlement to the campaign — for filing an antidiscrimination lawsuit against them:
The award to the Trump campaign came out of arbitration — nonpublic proceedings the campaign pursued against Denson after she filed two lawsuits against it. Denson was ordered to pay $25,000 to the campaign in October, but the award wasn’t made public until Denson’s lawyers included it in court filings in New York County Supreme Court in late November. The documents obtained by BuzzFeed News this week were not filed electronically.
The award payment is part of a complicated, ongoing legal battle between the Trump campaign and Denson, who, according to her court filings, worked on the campaign as a national phone bank administrator and as director of Hispanic engagement. Denson sued the campaign in New York County Supreme Court in November 2017, claiming that officials discriminated against her, cyberbullied her, and were otherwise hostile toward her; it did not include any allegations against Donald Trump personally. She sought $25 million in damages.
But the Trump campaign claimed Denson’s lawsuit violated the terms of her nondisclosure agreement, which prohibited her from disclosing confidential information, disparaging the campaign, competing with the campaign, or violating its intellectual property. The NDA gave the campaign the power to take issues that arose under the agreement to arbitration, and so the Trump campaign went to the American Arbitration Association and initiated the arbitration case against Denson, which has taken place behind closed doors; she has declined to participate.
This is not the first time that the campaign has tried to silence a former staffer with a nondisclosure agreement. In 2016, the campaign sought $10 million in damages from Sam Nunberg, for allegedly leaking an argument between former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks. Nunberg, who has given testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the Russia investigation, settled that dispute for an undisclosed amount.
Trump's relentless use of nondisclosure agreements with subordinates is unusual. But it reflects an impulse to keep the inner workings of his empire and his personal life secret. Much more famously, Trump directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to give a $130,000 hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her affair with the then-candidate quiet — an illegal move which has Cohen facing serious prison time and put the president himself on questionable legal ground.