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Sometimes settling a claim is the smartest thing to do

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Have you considered settling a claim instead of fighting it tooth and nail? Sometimes, that’s the smartest course of action—even if you believe your company didn’t do anything wrong.

Recent case: Timothy Jorgenson, who was 49 years old, claimed his employer fired him because he was older than the rest of the network technicians he worked with. He said supervisors made comments implying he was getting old and “needed help from the younger guys,” and that he was “getting bald and going gray.”

Jorgenson complained to his union, which negotiated a settlement on his behalf. In exchange for giving up his age discrimination claim, he would be reinstated if he passed a comprehensive standardized exam designed to test his computer skills.

Jorgenson signed the agreement—and then failed the test twice. He sued to reopen the settlement agreement when his former employer refused to give him a third chance.

But the court said he was out of luck. At best, it reasoned, he could get money damages if he could prove that the company never meant to rehire him or otherwise broke its part of the bargain. But he was not allowed to rescind the agreement and file the age discrimination claim. (Jorgenson v. Qwest, No. 07-CV-3979, DC MN, 2008)

Advice: If you decide to settle, make sure you ask your attorney to ensure that the terms and conditions are airtight. The last thing you want is a settled case that ends up in court anyway.

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