Attorney Joanna Friedman was recently asked by Government Executive to help parse the proposed nondisclosure agreement policies of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. In a Washington Post interview this month, Trump said he would have federal employees under his presidency sign nondisclosure agreements. The move, he explained, would prevent any federal employees to move on from their position and later write "tell-all" material (books, articles, etc.) based on their work experience.
“I think they should [sign them]," Trump said, "You know . . . there could be some kind of a law that you can’t do this. But when people are chosen by a man to go into government at high levels and then they leave government and they write a book about a man and say a lot of things that were really guarded and personal, I don’t like that." Trump went on to explain that he had "many thousands" of employees of his private businesses and that all of them has signed a confidentiality agreement.
Federal employment attorney Joanna Friedman told Government Executive, however, that this kind of policy could become legally sensitive. Currently, only federal employees in the intelligence sector sign nondisclosure agreements concerning disclosing classified information and are usually only attributed to other federal employees when there is a dispute of some kind, such as a lawsuit, and a settlement agreement requires such a provision.
However, Attorney Friedman did note that times are changing. "You typically will not be signing a non-disclosure agreement in the federal sector, though I suspect in this day and age of social media, federal agencies are starting to come up with internal regulations," she said. "“It’s not such a hard stretch from that to being precluded from writing a book dealing with your workplace, but that does start to get into First Amendment rights."
When it came to the First Amendment, Trump had his own take on his nondisclosure policy and why there has been little reporting on his employees' personal accounts of working for his companies. "People would say, oh, that’s terrible, you’re taking away his right to free speech. Well... I would say... I do have nondisclosure deals. That’s why you don’t read that..."