Can a signed separation and settlement agreement be voided if law broken?

I was laid off due to Elimination of Position; however they hired 1 person before I left and within a month later, they hired another person to do my job. I'm 61, and they are both under 40. I feel that this could be an age discrimination situation. Do I have any recourse since I signed the separation agreement which stated I wouldn't sue the company?

1 answer  |  asked May 27, 2010 9:15 PM [EST]  |  applies to Texas

Answers (1)

Thad Harkins
It appears you may have a valid age discrimination claim, and the laws provide that under certain circumstances, you can get out of the separation agreement under doctrines of "equitable estoppel" (that the employer lied about the job elimination or "lulled you" into not pursuing a claim), but this will require you to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC or the TWC - Civil Rights Division. What you might try to do is go to the EEOC office that services your city, and let them evaluate the claim and they might accept your case, or ask the employer to mediate your discrimination charge.
Here's a link to the EEOC page on filing a charge:
http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm

There are EEOC offices in several Texas cities (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and El Paso),
http://www.eeoc.gov/field/index.cfm
and you might want to at least go in for an interview, and they can help you assess whether you can show that when they let you go, they already knew they'd be filling your job again a month later (the employer will say they didn't have a need, but something happened soon after you left to cause a "new" need, and you'll have to prove this is not so, and it's just "pretext" for age discrimination).

There's another law, now part of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, calledthe Older Worker's Benefit Protection Act (which requires the "21 days to review" and "7 days to revoke" a severance agreement that was probably in your separation agreement), which might also give the employer an argument that before you can pursue a lawsuit after filing a charge, you may have to "tender back" the severance pay you got. If the EEOC decides to take your case to court (this rarely, but sometimes, happens), they might not be bound by the agreement to not sue that you are now bound by (they weren't parties to the agreement), but you may need to get a private attorney to review the situation, and work with you in pursuing your claim both through the EEOC and into Court, if the evidence is good. There are several fine Texas employment lawyers listed in the "Lawyers" pull-down tab on the top of the www.myemploymentlawyer.com opening page, and you can also find lawyers who might meet with you at www.workplacefairness.org or www.mytela.org

posted by Thad Harkins  |  Jun 14, 2010 5:07 PM [EST]

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