William Gilbert III agreed to settle his age discrimination case against Monsanto Co. by accepting a lump sum payment and immediate access to his pension.
Because the company's attorney said the benefits were immediately available regardless of the settlement, Gilbert's lawyer drafted an agreement that didn't mention the pension. They told the trial court that they had settled, and the judge dismissed the matter.
Monsanto paid the lump sum but didn't start the pension payments. So Gilbert had to go back to court to get an order to start the payments. The trial judge gave the order but refused to award Gilbert attorney fees for his extra trouble.
The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals did grant Gilbert those extra attorney fees. (Gilbert v. Monsanto Co., Nos. 99-1738 and 99-1873, 8th Cir., 2000)
Advice: When settling a case, be sure your company fulfills all terms of the agreement. Companies sometimes gamble that the employee won't file a separate lawsuit, this time for breach of contract, to get his whole settlement. Not smart. This case shows that employees don't have to go to all the trouble of a new lawsuit.
If a settlement gives the court jurisdiction to enforce the agreement, employees can easily bring the company back into court without the hassle of a separate suit. As in this case, the company may find itself liable for the employee's attorney fees, too.
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