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Jeff Bezos' housekeeper sued him last year over alleged racial bias and unsafe working conditions.
The case was dismissed, but included in court documents was a copy of her nondisclosure agreement.
The agreement shows Bezos' obsession with privacy.
Before she could start cleaning Jeff Bezos' house, his former housekeeper Mercedes Wedaa had to swear to keep absolute secrecy about the billionaire Amazon founder, according to a copy of her nondisclosure agreement included in court documents.
"Mr. Bezos considers that preserving his privacy is critical to his personal safety, well-being, and business," the agreement read. "I understand and agree that safeguarding the privacy of Mr. Bezos and his family members is an essential obligation of my agreement to provide services."
It's run-of-the-mill for celebrities to force or request people in their orbit to sign nondisclosure agreements. Last year, for instance, Tiger Woods' longtime girlfriend made headlines when she accused the golf star of sexual abuse but said she was prohibited from saying more by an NDA he had made her sign when they started dating.
"This sort of thing is common with celebrities who are trying to protect their image, their reputation," said Evan Starr, a professor at the University of Maryland who studies nondisclosure agreements and reviewed Wedaa's agreement at Business Insider's request.
What is rare, though, is for the full text of the agreement to enter the public record.
In this case, the NDA was included in court filings when the housekeeper sued Bezos last year, alleging racial bias and unsanitary working conditions. In her complaint, she said that Bezos's housekeeping staff had to climb out of a window to access a bathroom and lacked a space where they could eat.
In a statement to Business Insider at the time, an attorney for Bezos denied Wedaa's allegations. The parties entered arbitration last year and the case was dismissed in October, with a judge ruling that each party should cover its own attorney's fees. Attorneys for Bezos and Wedaa did not respond to requests for comment.
What Wedaa would be allowed to say per the NDA was limited. Even the identities of "Mr. Bezos and his family members" were "to be treated as private and confidential," the agreement stipulated, as were Wedaa's "personal opinions" about them. The agreement prohibited Wedaa from sharing, with any person, at any time, her "personal observations, ideas, experiences, images or impressions that refer or pertain in any way to Mr. Bezos or any of his family members, no matter in what form they may be."
If Wedaa ever created content about Bezos, he had the right to buy it from her for $10, the agreement said — removing the incentive for her to try selling any memoirs about her experience working for the family.
Wedaa's NDA also focused more on the possibility that a third party would bribe household staff in exchange for information than is typical, said New York employment attorney Vincent White, who also reviewed the agreement for BI.
Bezos has reason to be sensitive to such a scenario. The billionaire was rocked by scandal in early 2019 after the National Enquirer broke the news that he was in a relationship with now-fiancée Lauren Sanchez. At the time, Bezos was still married to novelist MacKenzie Scott.
But the agreement Bezos had Wedaa sign was "actually notably less punitive than many agreements I've seen employed by even mid-level reality TV personalities," White said. Some NDAs, White said, have provisions that exact a defined monetary penalty, sometimes in the six figures, for every breach of the agreement. Wedaa's agreement, in contrast, simply gives Bezos the right to ask a judge to instruct her to stop disclosing information about him, or, failing that, to recover whatever bribe or fee she received in exchange for the information.
"All in all, that approach is shockingly upstanding as compared with many NDA agreements," White said.
Wedaa began working for Bezos in the fall of 2019, shortly after he announced his divorce from Scott and purchased a $37.5 million waterfront estate in the exclusive Seattle-area enclave of Hunts Point. Bezos also purchased three nearby homes that residents said were for his staff.
Those transactions also speak to Bezos' penchant for privacy. Bezos purchased the homes through a maze of trusts and LLCs that appear designed to obscure his identity. Business Insider identified the properties by linking their tax address to an address used by Blue Origin, Bezos' rocket startup.
Wedaa was paid $250 for signing the agreement, a transaction that Starr speculated could have been intended to make the agreement more enforceable.
If a dispute were to arise over the NDA, "Bezos' side can argue that this isn't coercion, it was an exchange, they agreed to these conditions in exchange for this amount of money," Starr said.
The agreement contained a carveout for sexual harassment or assault, which would have enabled Wedaa to speak out if she observed or was a victim of such behavior. Several states, including Washington, where this agreement was in effect, have passed legislation that attempts to curtail the use of confidentiality agreements to ensure employees' silence about illegal behavior like sexual harassment.
Read the agreement below.
Read the original article on Business Insider