Does my severance plan create a disparate impact?

My severance agreement states:"You agree that if you knowingly or unknowingly apply for a position with the Company or its affiliated entities, subsidiares, divisions, successors and/or parent corporations, and are offered or accept a position, the offer may be withdrawn, or you may be terminated immediately, without notice, cause or recourse, or SUBJECTED TO PROSECUTION AND LEGAL FEES.
Does this create a disparate impact as I am a minority female in male dominated environment? They also are holding my household goods until I sign. Do I have rights to sue?

1 answer  |  asked Jan 14, 2002 4:52 PM [EST]  |  applies to Arizona

Answers (1)

Francis Fanning
disparate impact

The term "disparate impact" refers to a method of proving unlawful discrimination by showing that a test or condition that appears to be neutral on its face results in a protected group being treated less favorably than others. In your case, I assume that the term you describe is standard language the employer puts in its severance agreements. If it had a greater impact upon a protected class, that would mean that the layoff itself (if that is what happened to you) was having a greater impact on a protected group. The discrimination claim, if it can be proven, would be for the layoff, not the terms of the agreement. If you were simply terminated alone and required to sign the agreement, you cannot make a case for disparate impact. One termination has no statistical significance to prove anything, and disparate impact is proven by the use of statistical data.
The issue of holding your household goods raises separate questions that I cannot answer without more information. Why does your employer have your household goods in the first place? Have they paid to move them and are they now expecting reimbursement for moving expenses? If you just moved, why the termination? What was the agreement regarding moving costs? You need to meet with an attorney and go into detail about these issues.
By the way, although the language in the severance agreement sounds ominous, you cannot be criminally prosecuted for applying for a job. Assuming that the act of applying constitutes a breach of the severance agreement, the only "prosecution" that could occur would be a civil suit for damages for breach of contract. Why any employer would ever go to such lengths escapes me, and the likelihood of proving damages is rather remote (unless the employer spends money on hiring you - such things as moving expenses - and then discovers that you misrepresented yourself to the company by not revealing your status under the severance agreement).

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Jan 15, 2002 1:34 PM [EST]

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