Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Monday that women who have signed nondisclosure agreements at the company run by Mike Bloomberg should be allowed to tell their stories -- especially if those women want to speak publicly about past allegations that Bloomberg fostered a hostile work environment for women.
"I think [nondisclosure agreements] are a way for people to hide bad things they've done. And I think that women should be able to speak," Warren told reporters during a campaign stop in Fort Madison, Iowa, on Monday. "They need to be released from [nondisclosure agreements]."
Warren called on Bloomberg to release women from nondisclosure agreements less than 24 hours after ABC News reported on several lawsuits that accused Bloomberg of making crude remarks in the 1990s and created an uncomfortable environment for women to work -- allegations Bloomberg has denied.
"When women raise concerns like this, we have to pay attention. We have to listen to them, and if Michael Bloomberg has made comments like this, then he has to answer for them," Warren said.
I asked @ewarren for reaction to sexist comments @Mike2020 is alleged to have made. She said Bloomberg “has to answer” for the comments and called on Bloomberg to release women from their nondisclosure agreements with the company. https://t.co/fWusTXhScX pic.twitter.com/9cy3ZGvOFL— Cheyenne Haslett (@cheyennehaslett) December 16, 2019
ABC News has asked Bloomberg through his campaign if he has considered releasing these women from their nondisclosure agreements. The Bloomberg campaign declined to comment.
On Sunday, Bloomberg said his company has an “enviable record” of gender equity.
"There will always be somebody that’s not happy, but we are -- we do very well in terms of attracting men and women to come to work in the company, and the retention rate with both of them is good as I think any real company," Bloomberg said. "So, I’m very proud of what we do."
But in the wake of a #MeToo movement that tested the public’s tolerance for silencing victims, critics say Bloomberg owes his former employees the opportunity to share their stories.
"If Mr. Bloomberg is running for president, I think the public needs to know what actually happened in this business," said Bonnie Josephs, a lawyer whose former client, Sekiko Sakai, filed a lawsuit against Bloomberg's company in 1997.
Sakai accused Bloomberg of making sexually explicit and derogatory statements to and about women in the workplace.
A company spokesman told ABC News that the company rarely settles disputes, preferring to take them to court. But Sakai’s case is one of at least five the company has settled in the past 25 years. She is now bound by a confidentiality agreement.
ABC News has spoken with several women who expressed interest in telling their stories, but feared the prospect of facing retribution from the company for speaking out.