The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Separation Agreements and the EEOC

Chicago, IL

The EEOC is taking a serious look at the language many organizations utilize in separation agreements. It has been the position of HR that any time we provide a separation payment we ask for a release from that employee to ensure future legal action will not be forthcoming. Now it appears the EEOC is considering this a violation of the employee’s rights until Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

In the Strategic Enforcement Plan for FY 2013-2016 (the EEOC states), that it intends to “target policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or which impede the EEOC’s investigative or enforcement efforts. These policies or practices include retaliatory actions, overly broad waivers, settlement provisions that prohibit filing charges with the EEOC or providing information to assist in the investigation or prosecution of claims of unlawful discrimination, and failure to retain records required by EEOC regulations.” See EEOC Strategic Enforcement Plan FY 2013-2016 at p. 10 (Dec. 17, 2012).

We saw this occur in February 2014 in the Chicago district court. The moral of this story is that before you provide your standard agreements to employees leaving your company consider a review by counsel to ensure that the language is compliant with the new lens through which the EEOC is looking.

More details can be found on many legal website. Bloomberg BNA sums it up well here.

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