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How to Stop NDAs From Harming Employees: Q&A With Simon

Specialty Food Association

The food industry, just as with society at large, suffers from employee abuse, including sexual harassment and discrimination. Recently, food and agriculture company Bolthouse Farms took a stand, announcing changes to its NDA policy to allow employees the freedom to report potential wrongdoing they may have experienced at the company.

During this week's SFA In the Know webinar, titled “How to Stop NDAs From Harming Employees,” Michele Simon, a food policy expert and champion of Bolthouse’s new policy, will moderate a panel including Sarvenaz Bakhtiar of Lift Our Voices and Matthew Ayers of Bolthouse Farms. They will speak about federal, state, and company policies that are shifting the way we think about NDAs, why Bolthouse Farms decided to make the changes they did, and the personal toll silencing mechanisms can take. The webinar is free for members and $19 for non-members.

“My goal in putting this panel together is to shine a light on Bolthouse Farms’ leadership on this important issue and to help inspire other food companies to follow their lead,” Simon said. “This is so important because we’re in a time of workplace abuse, at the corporate level, in manufacturing, and in agriculture.”

SFA News Daily recently spoke with Simon.

For whom is this Thursday's SFA webinar meant?

It’s meant for company leaders, HR departments, and anyone who can help foster a healthy company culture. It’s meant for anyone in the food industry because, in addition to the people in power, part of my goal is to educate every worker about their legal rights and to make everyone aware of the shifting landscape—where laws are changing. Companies are waking up to the fact that they need to pay attention to company culture. Recruitment has gotten more competitive.

What can attendees expect from the discussion?

We are going to talk about the importance of transparency and creating a psychologically safe environment in which employees can thrive. Creating workplace policies that signal to your workforce that you want to hear feedback about problems that they’re experiencing and not to create a conspiracy of silence, will foster a much healthier work environment.

This goes beyond checking a box or an HR policy. It’s about creating a corporate culture.

I want everyone to understand what is going on in the industry and why it is important. We will also touch upon an employee perspective: how damaging it can be to be silent. Not only is it bad for companies, but it’s very harmful to individuals to view silence through these legal means and not have their voices heard.

Are there any special considerations for specialty food companies looking to implement these types of policies?

Most food companies in the specialty or natural food channels are striving to create better foods. Whether that is using organic ingredients or creating a healthier experience than conventional foods. While a lot of companies want to tout their bonafide policies, you can’t lose sight of the fact that if we are truly creating a better food system, that must include how we treat each other and how companies treat their workers. It’s really important to be mindful of your company’s operations.

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