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Cover USERRA, New York law by drafting unequivocal severance releases

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Don’t worry that releases you ask employees to sign in exchange for severance pay aren’t broad enough to cover claims under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) or the New York Military Law. As long as the release is clear and unequivocal about what’s being waived, it doesn’t have to specifically reference the laws.

Recent case: During John Cornelius’ last few weeks of work with UPS, his status as an Army reservist was a contentious issue. According to both parties, it was the only issue that caused any problems.

UPS agreed to pay Cornelius cash, provide health care coverage for a time and help him transition to a new career in exchange for a complete release of all liability. In exchange, Cornelius signed an agreement that released UPS from “all known or unknown claims, promises, causes of action, or similar rights … that may arise out of employment with, or separation from, the Company … or any other federal, state, or local law, common law, statute, regulation or law of any other type.”

Later, Cornelius sued, alleging the release didn’t mean he couldn’t sue under USERRA or the New York Military Law.

The court disagreed. It said both laws allow soldiers to release em­­ployers, as long as the agreement is clear and unequivocal. UPS’ release met that standard. (Cornelius v. UPS, No. 11-Civ-3206, SD NY, 2012)

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