Business Brief calls it a set of “how to sue your employer” instructions from the fed and advises that employers and HR managers familiarize themselves with this document recently issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): Understanding Waivers of Discrimination Claims in Employee Severance Agreements. Largely, this document was issued in response to a spike in age-related discrimination claims that is worrying the EEOC. They report that last year, workers filed nearly 30 percent more age discrimination charges than in 2007. Many feel that the economic downturn has taken a disproportionate toll on the older work force and many are concerned that several recent Supreme Court decisions are weakening the 1967 Age Discrimination Act in Employment. (In June, the Supreme Court ruled that for a discrimination case to succeed, thee employee must show that age discrimination was the cause rather than just a contributing factor to termination or other adverse job action Gross v FBL Financial Service)
The new document issued by EEOC is intended to give employees guidance on waiving discrimination claims in severance agreements:
“This document answers questions that you may have if you are offered a severance agreement in exchange for a waiver of your actual or potential discrimination claims. Part II provides basic information about severance agreements; Part III explains when a waiver is valid; and Part IV specifically addresses waivers of age discrimination claims that must comply with provisions of the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA). Finally, this document includes a checklist with tips on what you should do before signing a waiver in a severance agreement and a sample of an agreement offered to a group of employees giving them the opportunity to resign in exchange for severance benefits.”
Business Brief recommends that employers see this document as “a heads-up that EEOC is giving all such agreements a closer look.” They sugges that this document should be a resource for employers in drawing up any severance agreements, particularly in terms of what not to put in an agreement.