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Agreements in restraint of legal proceedings in business law have been a topic of much discussion in recent times. Such agreements, also known as non-disparagement clauses, are a common occurrence in business contracts. However, their legality and ethical implications have been debated by legal experts, policymakers, and the general public.

What is an agreement in restraint of legal proceedings?

An agreement in restraint of legal proceedings is a clause that prohibits one party from pursuing legal action against another party. In other words, it is an agreement that restrains one party`s legal rights. In the context of business law, such agreements are often inserted into employment contracts, vendor agreements, and settlement agreements.

Non-disparagement clauses, which prevent one party from making negative comments about the other, fall under the category of agreements in restraint of legal proceedings. These clauses are commonly used by companies to protect their reputation and prevent former employees, clients, or vendors from speaking negatively about them.

Are agreements in restraint of legal proceedings legal?

The legality of agreements in restraint of legal proceedings varies depending on the jurisdiction and the context in which they are used. In many countries, such agreements are considered against public policy and are therefore unenforceable.

In the United States, however, non-disparagement clauses are generally upheld, provided that they are clear and unambiguous. However, some states have passed laws that restrict the use of non-disparagement clauses in employment contracts.

Ethical considerations

While agreements in restraint of legal proceedings may be legal, they raise ethical issues. They can be used to silence whistleblowers, prevent victims of harassment or discrimination from speaking out, and shield companies from accountability for their actions.

Non-disparagement clauses can also be used as a tool of coercion, particularly in settlement agreements. For example, a victim of sexual harassment may be forced to sign a settlement agreement that includes a non-disparagement clause in exchange for a financial settlement.


Agreements in restraint of legal proceedings are a complex and controversial issue. While they may be legal in some contexts, they raise ethical questions about the balance between protecting a company`s reputation and the rights of individuals to speak out about wrongdoing. As copy editors, it is important to be aware of these issues and consider them when editing legal documents.