Home Career The Silent Contract: Navigating NDAs in Student Jobs

The Silent Contract: Navigating NDAs in Student Jobs

Many students feel pressured into signing these contracts in order to secure their positions.

by Soukita Morgan
Image of someone signing a contract with a pen whilst wearing a suit.
Photo of a man signing a contract with a pen whilst wearing a suit. (Photo courtesy @RazorMax/Pixabay)

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A growing number of employers are requiring non-disclosure agreements (NDA) as part of employment contracts, according to legal experts who say students should be cautious before signing any such documents.

An informal student survey found that employers such as restaurants, retail stores, and sports and leisure facilities are requiring students to sign NDAs as a condition of securing their jobs. NDAs are a legally binding contract that outlines confidential information that parties involved agree not to disclose to others.

“Confidentiality clauses in general are becoming more common in employment contracts as employers are focused on formalizing the terms of engagement and taking steps to protect their interests,” Rachel Patten, an associate at Whitten & Lubin, said in an email.

Harrison Jordan, a lawyer who practices at Substance Law, said students should carefully review and understand the scope of confidentiality and potential restrictions on future activities.

Students should “get a lawyer to review it and know the reason as to why you’re signing it. As well, you need to know if you can live with the consequences after signing the NDA,” said Jordan.

Patten said Canadian law allows employees to breach NDAs if they witness unlawful activities in the workplace.

“If an employee witnesses something illegal, they can and should make a complaint,” to the Ministry of Labour or a lawyer, Patten said in an email. “Understanding your rights as an employee is important because an NDA should not be able to stand in the way of a safe workplace.”

Megan O’Connell, a recent TMU grad, said she felt pressured into signing an NDA to get her job at a vintage retail clothing shop: “I wasn’t really given an option, it was either sign it or not get the job.”

Ethan Donelly, who recently graduated from University of British Columbia, said that when he was 19 he also had to sign a couple of NDAs when he worked as a extra in film and television production. “I was not able to work unless I signed the NDA. […] I was also told that breaking the NDA would not only result in legal action but being blacklisted from working in the film and television industry forever.” 

My name is Soukita Morgan, I am a fourth-year journalism student from Toronto Metropolitan University. As I pursue my Journalism degree, I have found an interest in fashion and philosophy. Along with this, I have written a couple of pieces for Stylecircle and Youthquaker. I have been trained in copy-editing, copywriting, and fact-checking. My journey here at TMU has helped me develop various amount of skills and helped me delve into my love for writing. In this final semester, I am completing a Masthead course where I will be extensively prepared for reporting and live broadcasting.

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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