Published on:

How an Unsigned Release Agreement’s Language Allowed a NJ Worker to Pursue 2 Federal Claims Instead of 1

It is said sometimes that the “devil is in the details.” Sometimes, though, those devilish details can be your friend in your employment law case. In one long-time employee’s lawsuit, the details of what was – and what was not – in a proposed release agreement proved to be potentially very helpful in her age discrimination case. The alleged flaws in that agreement allowed the worker to pursue, in addition to her Age Discrimination in Employment Act claim, a second claim for violating an addition federal statute. In sum, small details can make big differences, so you should be sure you have a skilled and knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney handling your case.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person has been with their current employer for between 4.5 and 5 years. K.F. was well ahead of that curve, having worked for her employer for more than 30 years when the employer let her go. According to the employer, it was eliminating K.F.’s position. At that point, it placed her on something called “surplus status,” which gave her 60 days to find a new job within the company. Two months later, the employer terminated K.F.’s employment.

The employer offered the worker severance, but only if she signed a release document that said that she forever released the employer from legal claims and waived any assertion of liability against the company. K.F., who was 60 years old, did not sign the agreement. Instead, she filed an age discrimination lawsuit. According to her complaint, the three-step process that included placing workers on surplus status and then terminating them was “infected with age bias.”

K.F. chose to pursue her compensation under federal law. She asserted that the employer had violated the ADEA, which bars employers from engaging in age discrimination against any worker (or workers) age 40 or older. (New Jersey law has broader age discrimination prohibitions. The Law Against Discrimination says that any worker (or workers) age 18 or older can pursue an age discrimination action against an employer if the employee (or employees) have sufficient proof to meet all of the law’s requirements for a valid case.)

Disclosure defects prompted the second claim

So, how did this unsigned release agreement trigger a second claim? Federal law has something called the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, and that law says that if an employer crafts a proposed agreement that calls for an employee to waive her age discrimination claims, the agreement must provider certain specific information.

The release agreement that K.F.’s employer offered her not only fell short of the exacting disclosure requirements required by the OWBPA, it also has factual inaccuracies in it, the worker alleged. Those errors were designed to harm older workers, according to the worker.

Despite the employer’s efforts to get K.F.’s claims thrown out, the court concluded that she could proceed, which meant that she had not one but two bases for seeking a judgment of liability and award of damages.

Many civil actions, including discrimination cases, are scenarios where it pays to “sweat the small stuff.” The diligent New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates are here to help you get what you deserve from your discrimination case. Contact us to find out more about your options. Reach us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

How the Omission of Essential Terms Allowed a New Jersey Employer to Escape Arbitration and Pursue Her Age Discrimination Case in Court, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Oct. 26, 2018

Achieving Success in a New Jersey Discrimination Lawsuit by Proving the Existence of ‘Disparate Treatment’ by Your Employer, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, June 6, 2018

Contact Information