The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission just came out with a document that some are calling “How to Sue Your Employer.” Rather than cursing (and hiding) the document, employers might be better served by using its contents to avoid a lawsuit.
The document, issued this month, is officially titled “Understanding Waivers of Discrimination Claims in Employee Severance Agreements.” It’s intended to provide guidance to employees who may receive such an agreement — and who need guidance on whether they have valid grounds for a lawsuit against an employer.
EEOC issued the document after noting an increase in age discrimination charges filed with the Commission, and what the EEOC characterized as “recent controversial Supreme Court decisions on enforcement of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).”
In summary, the document provides:
- guidance to terminated employees who are offered severance pay in exchange for a waiver of discrimination claims
- explains the purpose of severance agreements and releases, as well as the legal requirements for such agreements to be valid, including requirements for a valid release of age discrimination claims under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act
- advises employees that even if they have signed a waiver releasing their employer from claims, they can still file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC without first returning their severance pay
The document even contains an “Employee Checklist,” advising employees of factors to consider when they are offered a severance agreement.
How to use it to your advantage
Rather than hiding the document, HR can consider it a useful resource for when drawing up a severance agreement. For instance, you can find in the document a sample waiver that’s just about bulletproof against lawsuits.
Further, you can use the document to draw up a list of “don’ts” when drafting a severance agreement — what not to put in the agreement.
And consider the document a heads-up that EEOC is giving all such agreements a closer look.
Go here to see the full document.