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putting an end to NDAs with Shanaaz Gokool


It takes a lot of courage for people to speak out about their experiences of harassment, discrimination and bullying. Their courage to speak out is a powerful guiding force for us to make transformative changes for our sector and our society. And yet, we see time and time again that organizations silence these voices by adopting tactics like the non-disclosure agreement and threats of defamation.

How might we protect our individual rights when working in the nonprofit sector, and how might we change as a sector? On today’s podcast, Shanaaz Gokool, a human right activist who had the experience of speaking out against her former employer for their systemically racist practices, shares with us her personal story and insights.

Myths that Shanaaz wants nonprofit organizations to leave behind

  1. When someone speaks out, we run into the reputational risk of being scrutinized. If you don’t listen to the people speaking out and make meaningful changes, you are opening your organization up for more risk.

  2. We don’t have the budget to handle a complaint properly. It will be far more expensive for your organization down the road if your organization does not treat a complaint seriously and support the person filing the complaint. Trying to save costs with tactics like issuing a nondisclosure agreement might set your organization up for enormous human resources, legal and consulting costs down the road.

Shanaaz tips on protecting your rights when working in the sector

  1. Always review and know what you’re asked to sign. A confidentiality agreement that protects the piracy of clients and donor information is very different from a non-disclosure agreement that has a non-disparagement clause. You don’t have to sign anything just because you’re asked to by your employer.

  2. Ask your employer to commit to transparency and accountability. Speak to your employer about having HR policies that protect people who speak out or file complaints and not silence them or threaten them with defamation.

My favourite quotes from this episode

Post your favourite quote on social to share with us!

“You don’t workshop your way into equity. It’s an ongoing process.”

“It doesn’t make sense for nonprofit organizations to try to silence voices with tactics like the non-disclosure agreements and the threat of defamation, given the sector’s role in the society is to do social good. There is a fundamental contradiction here.”

Resources from this Episode

The Good Partnership

National Day of Conversation

Connect with Shanaaz