life coach speaking in chair (l) Non-Disclosure Agreement paper on table with pen (c) life coach speaking in chair (r)

Casper1774 Studio/Shutterstock @j.t.odonnell/TikTok (Licensed) Remix by Caterina Cox

‘I told them to keep their hush money’: Career coach shares PSA about signing NDAs

'Companies have all the resources and you are a business of one.'


Tricia Crimmins


Posted on Aug 16, 2023   Updated on Aug 24, 2023, 4:37 pm CDT

When we think about nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), most of us only consider the limitations that they would place on what we’re allowed to say about a company.

But a career coach says that signing an agreement doesn’t stop companies from speaking freely about you to future employers.

In a TikTok posted on Monday, career coach J.T. O’Donnell says that while many NDAs bar the signee from speaking about the company that drafted the agreement, the company might still be able to speak about the signee after their professional relationship has ended.

That’s why, O’Donnell says, it’s so important to read the fine print.

“Please read those very, very carefully,” O’Donnell says of NDAs and separation agreements. “What a lot of people don’t look at is whether or not they’re allowed to say things about you.”

O’Donnell also shares an anecdote: Her client was having a hard time finding a new job, and when she asked him if a reference from his old job might be an obstacle, he said because he signed an NDA, the previous employer wasn’t allowed to say anything bad about him.

So O’Donnell had someone do a “fake reference check” for her client to see what his old bosses were saying about him.

“And wouldn’t ya know, this company where he signed the NDA was actually telling people that he was fired and not eligible for re-hire,” O’Donnell says. “That wasn’t what happened.”

And unfortunately, she and her client found that the agreement he had signed allowed his former employer to speak about him freely.

“You gotta fight for your rights, folks,” O’Donnell says. “Companies have all the resources, and you are a business of one.”

@j.t.odonnell When Employers Want You To Sign An NDA Or Separation Ageement. PLEASE KNOW THIS! 🙋‍♀️🤔🤨😉👍 I recently had a client find out that a company he used to work for where he signed an NDA was actually claiming he was fired and not eligible for rehire in reference checks. Unfortunately, there was nothing in the NDA that protected him from this. He signed it to get some severance money after being laid off. In the NDA, it talked about all the things he couldn’t say about his former employer, or he would get sued. But nowhere in there did it protect him against them. Folks, if you’re going to sign an NDA, make sure the verbiage in there protects you as well, and then go one step further, and have people do reference checks on you to make sure the company is actually following through. You have to protect yourself, they have all the resources and you were just a business of one. For more help, Make sure you follow me here and check out my TikTok series as well as the seven day free trial to my career coaching platform over at ##nda##nondisclosure##nondisclosureagreement##employer##referencecheck##becareful##youneedtoknow ♬ original sound – J.T. O'Donnell

Companies who give former employees false references, as seemed to be the case in O’Donnell’s client’s situation, can be sued for defamation. And, of course, giving a fake reference to a prospective employer is illegal.

Commenters on O’Donnell’s video thanked her for the insight, and some even said they’ve refused to sign NDAs when they’ve been presented with them.

“I did not sign it the last time this happened to me,” @billtheminiaussie wrote. “I told them to keep their hush money.”

“I never feel comfortable signing when a company requires an NDA,” @jessiohno commented. “Had one at my last job never sat right with me.”

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*First Published: Aug 16, 2023, 6:58 pm CDT