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Go for the gold: Craft waivers that release you from all lawsuits

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The teachers and students in the classroom where Mary Jefferson was a part-time aide regularly used derogatory terms for females, such as bitch, slut and whore. As a result, Jefferson filed a workers' compensation claim, saying the stress was affecting her physically. She also sued, claiming sex discrimination under California law.

When Jefferson settled her workers' comp claim for $49,500, she signed a preprinted agreement releasing her employer from "all" claims. But later, she argued that the form didn't encompass her sex discrimination suit.

A state appeals court threw out her sex-discrimination claim, saying that "all" means "all," even on a preprinted form. In addition, an attachment released Jefferson's co-workers from liability, suggesting the agreement went beyond workers' comp. (Jefferson v. Cal. Dept. of Youth Authority, No. E026915, Cal. CA, 2000)

Advice: When you resolve employment disputes, have the employee sign a global release of all claims. That will protect you from further litigation over the dispute at hand, as well as other claims of which you may not even be aware.

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