Here’s some good news—and more incentive to settle discrimination cases before the EEOC: If the agreement is signed, sealed and delivered, the employee can’t later sue in federal court to have the agreement invalidated—even if she has seemingly good reasons to argue she didn’t consent to or otherwise wasn’t capable of settling the case.
Recent case: Paulette, a civilian employee with the U.S. Army, filed an EEOC discrimination complaint. Working with the agency, she came to an agreement to settle the case. In exchange for agreeing to drop her case, she received monetary compensation plus additional leave time.
Then she sued in federal court, arguing that she had been incapable of agreeing to the settlement. She said she had been on prescription medications that interfered with her ability to think.
The Army argued that federal courts don’t have jurisdiction over what was essentially a contract claim. Paulette argued she didn’t have contractual capacity to enter into the settlement.
The court agreed it had no jurisdiction because the subject matter was strictly contractual. It didn’t matter that if the court had invalidated the agreement, Paulette would sue over alleged Title VII discrimination. The settlement was final and binding. (Charles v. McHugh, No. 14-50909, 5th Cir., 2015)
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