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Technically Speaking: Review Releases For Compliance With OWBPA Or Risk Age Discrimination Actions

  • June 25, 2001

The U.S. District Court in Massachusetts recently handed a huge victory to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a lawsuit challenging an employer's use of releases containing waivers of age discrimination claims. The District Court granted the EEOC's motion for summary judgment and ruled that, as a matter of law, the international information technology company violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act from 1994 to 1997 by requiring older workers to sign releases that did not comply with the specific provisions of the Older Workers' Benefit Protection Act. EEOC v. Bull HN Information Systems, Inc.

The EEOC alleged that the severance plan adversely affected older employees by requiring them to sign waivers of the right to file charges as a condition to receiving benefits. The EEOC also claimed that the severance plan failed to meet the informational and timing requirements of the ADEA, as amended by the OWBPA, and failed to provide the employees with additional compensation in exchange for the ADEA waiver.

This case is one example of the EEOC's increasingly aggressive position concerning waivers and releases under the anti-discrimination laws. Given the EEOC's heightened interest in this area, employers should review their releases and severance policies to ensure they comply fully with the ADEA, as amended by the OWBPA. Previous releases, even if from the same legal counsel, should not be used without reviewing the particular situation, as well as the cur rent state of the law, with employment counsel.

©2001 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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