Make sure your severance agreements don't require employees to waive their rights to file a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Why? As opposed to a private lawsuit, an EEOC charge is meant to help the EEOC serve the "public interest" of enforcing anti-discrimination laws. Because the public's interest outweighs an employer's interest in settling the charges, employers can't require employees to waive this right.
Recent case: A speech pathologist was fired and offered two weeks' severance pay in exchange for signing a waiver that barred her from filing claims "in any administrative, judicial or other forum whatsoever."
She refused to sign and, instead, filed an EEOC charge. The EEOC sided with her, saying, "An employer and an employee cannot agree to deny to the EEOC the information that it needs to advance this public interest [of eradicating discrimination]." (EEOC v. Sundance Rehabilitation Corp., No. 1:01 CV 1867, N.D. Ohio, 2004)
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