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James Cameron Can't Tell Elementary School Workers to Shut Up

Director James Cameron ran into legal trouble when trying to enforce a code of silence at his private elementary school in Calabasas, California.

The MUSE School, started by Cameron and his wife Suzy in 2006, was founded on the philosophy that "young people should have rights, as well as a voice and a choice in their educations." Apparently this didn't apply to MUSE School workers, who according to The Hollywood Reporter were forced to sign a confidentiality agreement barring them from discussing compensation, the kids who attended the school, or even their employer.

An administrative law judge ruled Monday that this practice was illegal.

NLRB Rules Against 'Titanic' Director

A San Francisco judge with the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision that condemned the MUSE School's practices as violating federal law. ALJ Lisa Thompson noted in her opinion that there was no legal justification for why celebrity privacy should trump the school "employees' right to discuss their wages, hours, or other terms and conditions of employment."

This isn't exactly news. The NLRB has ruled in the past that employers need to be very careful about restricting their employees' speech, even on social media, to protect their rights to discuss employment conditions and their employers. Confidentiality agreements are not unheard of for employees, especially as a way to protect intellectual property, but the agreement must allow for protected activity under federal law.

Here, the "Avatar" director's school had forced its workers into an overbroad agreement, and one that was invalidated because it barred employees from discussing basic protected topics, like their wages.

Ordered to Make Changes

James Cameron isn't likely a person who enjoys taking criticism about his work, and the ALJ wasn't exactly pulling punches in her order. The MUSE school will need to:

  • Immediately stop enforcing the current confidentiality policy;
  • Create a new confidentiality agreement with a Section 7 exemption in it;
  • Post paper notices in the school notifying employees of their federal labor rights and the results of the ruling; and
  • Email or make the notice electronically available.

The new policy should be able to prevent MUSE workers from airing gossip about a "Titanic" remake without infringing on their federal labor rights.

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