Every severance agreement an employer offers to a departing employee includes a release of claims, typically in exchange for severance pay.
Companies rely on these agreements to eliminate the risk of lawsuits. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, however, considers it has an important role in making sure that there still can be employee lawsuits notwithstanding severance agreements. In its most recent national strategic enforcement plan, the EEOC announced one of its top priorities is “preserving access to the legal system.” (EEOC Strategic Enforcement Plan FY 2013-2016 at p. 10 (Dec. 17, 2012), available at www.eeoc.gov.) The EEOC 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.” (Id.) The EEOC will scrutinize “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.” (Id.) Read More