Non-disclosure agreements have become a thing in the Democratic primaries. Just last week, Mike Bloomberg was asked about complaints he had made sexual comments in the workplace to some women who had later been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements. Elizabeth Warren hammered Bloomberg over it. “What we need to know is exactly what’s lurking out there, Warren said. She continued, “He has gotten some number of women—dozens, who knows— to sign non-disclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace.” Warren then asked Bloomberg to release those women from their NDAs so they could come forward.
Today the Associated Press points out that an organization called Our Revolution, created to support Bernie Sanders run for office, forced a woman who sued the organization to sign an NDA to prevent her from talking.
The consultant, Tezlyn Figaro, confirmed the existence of the nondisclosure agreement to The Associated Press without providing additional details.
The deal is tied to a 2019 lawsuit in which Figaro said she was fired from the Sanders-created political group Our Revolution a year earlier due to her race and in “retaliation for complaining about the organization’s treatment towards her and African-Americans.” The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. Though the lawsuit was aimed at Our Revolution, it included broad criticism of Sanders’ campaign, arguing an all-white leadership staff “was accused of racism” by black staffers and failed to engage black voters…
Figaro was the director of racial justice for Sanders’ 2016 campaign, then worked on black outreach issues for Our Revolution…
A spokesman for Our Revolution did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Sanders campaign said it couldn’t comment on the specifics of the case, arguing the campaign can’t legally have insight into the activities of Our Revolution.
In a statement, Sanders campaign spokeswoman Sarah Ford said, “We oppose using NDAs to silence the victims of toxic workplace issues.”
The backstory to all of this is pretty interesting. Figaro is good friends with Nina Turner who is currently a co-chair of Sanders campaign. Back in 2018, Turner was the president of Our Revolution and she attempted to install her friend Figaro as the Chief of Staff but the board rejected her effort. Part of the rejection was apparently because Figaro had no experience in such work but there was another reason: Figaro had appeared on Fox News and had even praised President Trump on occasion. In particular, she had once said something positive about his crackdown on illegal immigration:
Board members flagged Figaro’s frequent appearances on Fox News praising Trump. She has said on the network as recently as the end of April that the president’s critics mostly don’t like that he’s shaking up the system. And last year she said immigrants are “coming into the country and getting benefits that Americans do not get,” and getting away with crimes while African-Americans go to prison.
That was in May of 2018. Figaro apologized on Twitter for her comments but Our Revolution’s former political director said in a post on Facebook that Figaro should be ousted. And within a few days, she was fired. That seemed to be the end of it until May of 2019, when Figaro sued Our Revolution demanding back pay and damages. The lawsuit framed the board’s refusal to promote her to Chief of Staff as a case of racial discrimination:
The lawsuit makes broad claims about the nature of the alleged discrimination at the Sanders-linked group: namely, that its leadership “did not share” Figaro’s goal of “providing African-Americans equal access to Our Revolution”; that Figaro made numerous internal complaints about the workplace culture there; that she received “tremendous pushback” from the board in response to her efforts to “address issues important to the African American community”; and that, in May 2018, despite a recommendation from Turner, she was denied a promotion “due to [her] race and in retaliation for [her] complaints regarding Our Revolution’s treatment towards her and African-Americans.”
“She was personally attacked for raising concerns about issues affecting African-Americans and Our Revolution’s exclusion of African-American issues from its agenda,” the lawsuit reads.
Figaro details one incident in particular: an April 2018 presentation to Our Revolution bird members where she says she outlined her strategic outreach efforts. At one point in the meeting, Figaro claims, one board member, Catalina Velasquez, asked why Turner had been scheduled to speak at “so many African-American events and not more Latino events.”
In the suit, Figaro accuses Velasquez of privately and publicly calling for her termination on or about May 17, 2018, four days before Politico published its story.
Velasquez, the person Figaro singled out in the lawsuit, had been quoted in the 2018 Politico story saying the following about Figaro’s appearance on Fox News:
“It’s a red flag,” said founding board member Catalina Velasquez. “If I know someone is inflammatory, using hate speech at a time when all oppressed people need to come together, it puts me in a very difficult position.”…
Velasquez, a co-vice chair, said she has considered resigning herself.
“It deeply saddens me because I am an undocumented immigrant, and [Figaro’s] comments were very harsh,” Velasquez said.
So it really does sound as if Nina Turner wanted Figaro to advance at Our Revolution but Velasquez wanted her cancelled. Velasquez won in the short term but last July, Our Revolution settled the lawsuit brought by Figaro for an undisclosed sum and forced her to sign an NDA preventing her from talking about it.
Now that NDAs are something candidates are being asked to release people from, will Bernie Sanders call for Figaro to be released from her NDA? Will Bloomberg or Warren might put pressure on Sanders to do so? Personally, I don’t think either will say a peep. Bloomberg probably doesn’t want to bring up the issue of his own NDAs again and Warren simply does not want to risk the wrath of the Bernie Bros.
Here’s Tezlyn Figaro talking about her lawsuit last year, back when she could still talk about it. It sounds like she is not a fan of cancel culture.