Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) October 8, 2012 – There are many situations that arise for last chance employment agreements. Do not sign away Title VII rights.
“If you find yourself in a situation where you have been presented with a last chance agreement and one of the requirements is you relinquish your Title VII rights, speak to an experienced employment attorney right away. Have the attorney review the document before signing anything,” advised Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace.
Often, last chance agreements are offered to workers to get them to improve their work performance, rather than fire them. The wording contained in that agreement is crucial, and if it outlines that the individual must give up their Title VII rights, they need to get in touch with a lawyer right away.
“Just recently the EEOC won a major victory, outside of court, when it pointed out that some last chance agreements are automatically in violation of Title VII, if that agreement is designed to stop employees from filing an action. The agreements the EEOC was disputing had a clause that stated workers promised not to file discrimination charges, in return for keeping their jobs,” explained Coffey.
EEOC v. Cognis, No. 10-CV-2182, CD IL, 2012 is an interesting read, as the man was allegedly identified as a poor performer, and was given the opportunity to sign a last chance agreement, and keep his job. However, in signing that agreement, he gave up his right to file discrimination charges against the company now, and in the future. That did not sit right with the worker, who subsequently changed his mind about giving up the right to file discrimination charges, and he told the company he would not put up with being constrained by the agreement. He was fired.
The company suggested the whole scenario was as if the man had not been offered a last chance opportunity, and that they would have then just fired him for poor performance anyway. However, thanks to the man filing a complaint with the EEOC, the Commission uncovered other workers that had also been offered the same agreement, but had kept on working and not said anything.
The bottom line is that the EEOC said agreements such as the one the man signed in this case made it a condition to keep his job by agreeing not to file a federal employment discrimination complaint, and that was illegal. The court agreed, and stated it was clear the man was fired in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity – the right to sue for discrimination.
“It is important to note with the Cognis case, that the man did not necessarily have a discrimination claim to file, but rather, he felt the should not be forced into giving that right up, just to keep a job. The other cases uncovered by the EEOC will proceed to court, and it will be interesting to see if they will be declared invalid for the same reason as Cognis. If that is the case, employers will need to review the content of their last chance agreements, and how they use them,” suggested Coffey.
Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit http://www.employmentlawcounsel.com
THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C.
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Chicago, IL 60654