One of the important issues for employees to be aware of is that they have rights when it comes to termination. These rights vary depending on the state you live in and any contractual agreements that may exist between the employee and the employer. All employees have protection from termination based on illegal grounds such as illegal discrimination or retaliation for whistle-blowing.
Employees who have additional legal rights connected to termination based on a contract need to be aware of exactly what their rights are so that they can identify when their employer may be acting illegally and what their own obligations are surrounding termination. Of course, it is also important for employees to be aware of when an employer may be asking them to sign an illegal agreement as well.
Many employees, when confronted with a request to sign a legally problematic employment or termination agreement, aren’t necessarily going to be able to tell the difference. A recent example of this is a settlement between the Minneapolis Public School District and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involving severance agreements with questionable language.
Over the last 2 ½ years or so, the school distract had required 50 of its employees to sign severance agreement which required them to waive their right to sue the school district for employment discrimination. The EEOC got involved last year after a discrimination claim was filed against the district. According to the EEOC, various federal laws make it illegal to require that an employee waive his or her right to file a discrimination claim.
Those who are confronted with an employer’s demand to sign a questionable employment or severance agreement can benefit from the advice and guidance of an experienced attorney, as can those who become involved in litigation which runs into complications on the basis of such an agreement.
In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the legal requirements applicable to waivers of rights under severance agreements.