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Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins
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Developing a Severance Outplacement Strategy - Ogletree Deakins

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What are your expectations when you decide to pay severance to a terminated employee? …

What are your expectations when you decide to pay severance to a terminated employee?

How close can you get to your expectations?

Title VII, Equal Pay Act, Rehabilitation Act, ADA, Section 1981, ERISA, WARN Act

- knowing and voluntary test
- totality of the circumstances
- Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36 (1974).

Daniel P. O’Gorman, A State of Disarray: The “Knowing and Voluntary” Standard for Releasing Claims Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 8 U. Pa. J. Lab. & Emp. L. 73 (2005).
Thesis: While an agreement to release Title VII claims might not require the application of the objective theory of contracts like a contract in a commercial transaction, it also does not require application of the “voluntary, knowing, and intelligent” constitutional waiver standard.

Craig Robert Senn, Knowing and Voluntary Waivers of Federal Employment Claims: Replacing the Totality of Circumstances Test with a “Waiver Certainty” Test, 58 Fla. L. Rev. 305 (2006).
Thesis: Due to the totality test’s shortcomings and problematic consequences for employers, employees, and the courts, a new and reformed analysis is needed to determine whether a waiver of non-ADEA federal employment claims is knowing and voluntary.

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  • 1. Are You Getting What You Paid For? Developing aTitle Goes Here Severance Strategy that Provides Finality Presented By: James (Jay) F. Glunt, Esq. Damon P. Hart, Esq. Ogletree Deakins September 26, 2012 Sponsored By:
  • 2. What is Your Severance Strategy? • What are your expectations when you decide to pay severance to a terminated employee? • How close can you get to your expectations?
  • 3. What does bullet proof mean? • Importance of Finality (Release as Deterrent) • Importance of Compliance (Defeating Validity Challenge) • Is signing on the dotted line enough?
  • 4. A. Reducing Likelihood of a Lawsuit  Be Kind but Be Truthful  (Don’t give false reasons for termination to ‘soften blow’)  Allow employee to maintain their dignity
  • 5. A. Reducing Likelihood of a Lawsuit  Do the termination privately in a discrete fashion.  Is a security escort necessary?  If not, avoid it; sometimes it adds unnecessary drama.
  • 6. A. Reducing Likelihood of a Lawsuit • Avoid having terminated employee have to come back to facility • Have final pay and paper work ready • Offer to send personal effects
  • 7. B. Legal Standards for Valid Release 1. Underlying Principles • • • • • offer/acceptance consideration duress, mistake, other defenses affirmative defense burden of proof
  • 8. B. Legal Standards for Valid Release 2. Title VII, Equal Pay Act, Rehabilitation Act, ADA, Section 1981, ERISA, WARN Act - knowing and voluntary test totality of the circumstances Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36 (1974).
  • 9. “Knowing and Voluntary” clear language ► education  consideration ► business experience  time to read ► actually read and consider?   advise to consult with attorney ► actually consult?
  • 10. Objective or Subjective Standard? Daniel P. O’Gorman, A State of Disarray: The “Knowing and Voluntary” Standard for Releasing Claims Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 8 U. Pa. J. Lab. & Emp. L. 73 (2005). Thesis: While an agreement to release Title VII claims might not require the application of the objective theory of contracts like a contract in a commercial transaction, it also does not require application of the “voluntary, knowing, and intelligent” constitutional waiver standard. Craig Robert Senn, Knowing and Voluntary Waivers of Federal Employment Claims: Replacing the Totality of Circumstances Test with a “Waiver Certainty” Test, 58 Fla. L. Rev. 305 (2006). Thesis: Due to the totality test’s shortcomings and problematic consequences for employers, employees, and the courts, a new and reformed analysis is needed to determine whether a waiver of non-ADEA federal employment claims is knowing and voluntary.
  • 11. Objective or Subjective Standard? Parsons v. Pioneer Seed Hi-Bred Int’l, Inc., 447 F.3d 1102, 1104 (8th Cir. 2006) (district court should not have relied upon employee’s subjective state of mind when determining whether release agreement was valid under ADEA/OWBPA).
  • 12. “Knowing and Voluntary” Cases 1st Hernandez v. Philip Morris USA, Inc, 486 F.3d 1 (1st. Cir. 2007) (release of Title VII claim). 3d W.B. v. Matula, 67 F.3d 484 (3d Cir. 1995) (release of Rehabilitation Act claim). 5th Chaplin v. Nations Credit Corp., 307 F.3d 368 (5th Cir. 2002) (release of ERISA claim). 6th Alonso v. Huron Valley Ambulance Inc., No. 09-1812 (6th Cir. April 26, 2010) (release of right to judicial forum). 7th Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709 (7th Cir. 2009) (release of Title VII claim, no tender back as alternative reason for denying validity challenge). 10th Torrez v. Public Service Co., 908 F.2d 687 (10th Cir. 1990) (release of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claim).
  • 13. Can WARN Act claims be released? When it applies, the WARN Act requires employers to provide employees with 60 calendar-day advance notice before a plant closing or mass layoff. Can an employee’s WARN Act rights be released? • Allen v. Sybase, Inc., 468 F.3d 642, 653-56 (10th Cir. 2006) (no release of Warn Act claim when claim arose after release was signed). • Joe v. First Bank System, Inc., 202 F.3d 1067, 1070 (8th Cir. 2000) (WARN Act claim released by general waiver). • Williams v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 23 F.3d 930, 936-37 (5th Cir. 1994) (WARN Act claims released, no tender back as alternative basis, and appeal dismissed as frivolous).
  • 14. A. Standards for Valid Release 3. - ADEA Claims knowing and voluntary test is set by the OWBPA (29 USC § 626(f)) - Statutory factors supplemented by EEOC (29 CFR § 1625.22) - rationale: older workers may have difficulty returning to work
  • 15. OWBPA is a Floor, Not a Ceiling 3rd Wastak v. Lehigh Valley Health Network, 342 F.3d 281, 283 (3d Cir. 2003) (OWBPA sets the minimum requirements, and pre-existing totality-of-the-circumstances test also applies). 9th Syverson v. IBM, 472 F.3d 1072, 1075-76 (9th Cir. 2007) (employer must meet statutory requirements as well as knowing and voluntary standard).
  • 16. OWBPA is a Floor, Not a Ceiling 10th Bennet v. Coors, 189 F.3d 1221, 1230 (10th Cir. 1999) (OWBPA compliance is required, coupled with an assessment of totality of the circumstances). 11th Griffin v. Kraft General Foods, Inc., 62 F.3d 368, 371-73 (11th Cir. 1995) (OWBPA sets forth minimum requirements; totality of the circumstances must still be considered).
  • 17. A. Standards for Valid Release (A) the waiver is part of an agreement . . . Written in a manner calculated to be understood by such individual, or by the average individual eligible to participate; (B) the waiver specifically refer to rights or claims arising under this chapter; (C) the individual does not waive rights or claims that may arise after the date the waiver is executed; (D) the individual waives rights or claims only in exchange for consideration in addition to anything of value to which the individual already is entitled;
  • 18. A. Standards for Valid Release (E) the individual is advised in writing to consult with an attorney prior to executing the agreement; (F) (i) the individual is given a period of at least 21 days within which to consider the agreement; or (ii) if a waiver is requested in connection with an exit incentive or [group termination program], the individual is given a period of at least 45 days within which to consider the agreement; (G) the agreement provides that for a period of at least 7 days following the execution of such agreement, the individual may revoke the agreement, and the agreement shall not become effective or enforceable until the revocation period has expired;
  • 19. A. Standards for Valid Release (I) If a waiver is requested in connection with an exit incentive or [group termination program], the employer (at the commencement of the period specified in subparagraph (F)) informs the individual in writing in a manner calculated to be understood by the average individual eligible to participate, as to – (J) (i) any class, unit, or group of individuals covered by (H) (A) (K) such program, any eligibility factors for such program, and any time limits applicable to such program; and (ii) the job titles and ages of all individuals eligible or (A) (B) selected for the program, and the ages of all individuals in the same job classification or organizational unit who are not eligible or selected for the program.
  • 20. Decisional Unit “[T]hat portion of the employer’s organizational structure from which the employer chose the persons who would be offered consideration for the signing of a waiver and those who would not be offered consideration for the signing of a waiver.” (29 CFR § 1625.22(f)(3)) Kruchowski v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 446 F3d 1090 (10th Cir. 2006) (inaccurate identification of decisional unit renders ADEA releases invalid)
  • 21. Decisional Unit -- Examples  (A) Ten percent of the employees in the Springfield facility will be terminated.  (B) Fifteen Computer Division employees will be terminated.  (C) Half of the Keyboard Department of the Computer Division will be terminated.  (D) Ten percent of employees reporting to the VP for Sales, wherever located, will be terminated.  (E) Ten percent of all accountants, wherever located, will be terminated.
  • 22. Notable OWBPA Cases Raczak v. Ameritech Corp., 103 F.3d 1257 (6th Cir. 1997) (varying potential labels to use as “job title” for group termination disclosures should be resolved by focusing on “understandability” to workers). American Airlines, Inc. v. Cardoza-Rodriguez, 133 F.3d 111 (1st Cir. 1998) (the phrase “I have had reasonable and sufficient time and opportunity to consult with an independent legal representative” insufficient). Cole v. Gaming Entertainment, L.L.C., 199 F.Supp.2d 208 (D. Del 2002) (the phrase “[e]mployee acknowledges that he/she has been advised to consult with an attorney” is insufficient under OWBPA).
  • 23. B. Legal Standards for Valid Release 4. Covenants not to Sue Release - Affirmative Defense (FRCP 8) No counterclaim No fees/recovery Covenant - Offense Counterclaim Fees/recovery
  • 24. Release vs. Covenant Not to Sue Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed. (2004) “Release”  The act of giving up a right or claim to the person against whom it could have been enforced; the relinquishment or concession of a right, title, or claim. “Covenant not to Sue”  A covenant (contract) in which a party having a right of action agrees not to assert that right in litigation.
  • 25. In search of a bullet proof release . . . • Importance of Finality: Include a covenant not to sue as a separate provision? (Release as Deterrent) • Importance of Compliance: Will the covenant not to sue cause confusion as to the ADEA release? (Defeating Validity Challenge)
  • 26. First Attack on Covenants Not to Sue “No waiver may be used to justify interfering with the protected right of an employee to file a charge or participate in an investigation or proceeding conducted by the Commission.” 29 USC § 626(f)(4)
  • 27. Second Attack on Covenants Not to Sue “No ADEA waiver agreement, covenant not to sue, or other equivalent arrangement may impose any condition precedent, any penalty, or any other limitation adversely affecting any individual’s right to challenge the agreement.” 29 CFR § 1625.23(b) See Oubre v. Entergy Operations, Inc., 522 U.S. 422 (1998).
  • 28. Third Attack on Covenants Not to Sue “Written in a manner calculated to be understood” “Waiver agreements must be drafted in plain language . . . [which] usually will require the limitation or elimination of technical jargon and of long, complex sentences.” 29 CFR § 1625.22(b)(3)
  • 29. Fourth Attack on Covenants Not to Sue “The waiver agreement must not have the effect of misleading, misinforming, or failing to inform participants and affected individuals. Any advantages or disadvantages described shall be presented without either exaggerating the benefits or minimizing the limitations.” 29 CFR § 1625.22(b)(4)
  • 30. Fifth Attack on Covenants Not to Sue “Agreements extracting such promises [not to file a charge or participate in an EEOC proceeding] may also amount to separate and discrete violations of the anti-retaliation provisions of the civil rights statutes.” EEOC Enforcement Guidance on NonWaivable Employee Rights Under EEOC Enforced Statutes (04/10/97) 29 CFR § 1625.22(i)(2)
  • 31. Two Questions 1. Does your form of release have a covenant not to sue? 2. If so, do you have carve-outs? Retain right to file charge. Retain right to challenge ADEA waiver.
  • 32. B. Legal Standards for Valid Release 5. State Specific Requirements Minnesota Release of claims under Minnesota’s Human Rights Act can be revoked within 15 days after execution (ADEA is 7 days). M.S.A. § 363A.31(2).
  • 33. B. Legal Standards for Valid Release Missouri Upon request, law requires “service letter” stating reasons for termination or resignation. V.A.M.S. § 290.140. New York Employers, within five working days of termination, must give written notice with exact date of termination and cancellation of benefits. N.Y. Lab. Law § 195(6).
  • 34. B. Legal Standards for Valid Release Ohio Employee must be notified at the time of termination of the right to continuation of medical benefits and of the contributions required. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3923.38(C)(2). Virginia Law prohibits actions by an employer to prevent an employee from obtaining other employment. Va. Code Ann. § 40.1-27. See also Haigh v. Matsushita Elec. Corp. of America, 676 F.Supp. 1332 (E.D. Va. 1987).
  • 35. B. Legal Standards for Valid Release West Virginia Must reference state statute by name, advise to see attorney, 21 days to consider and 7 days to revoke, and must provide toll free phone number for state bar association. West Virginia Human Rights Commission Legislative Rule § 77-6-1.
  • 36. B. Legal Standards for Valid Release  Under Massachusetts Law, when an employee voluntarily leaves his or her employment, the employer must pay the employee in full on the following regular payday or, if there is none, on the following Saturday. When an employer terminates an employee’s employment, the employer must pay the employee in full on the day of the dismissal. MGLA ch. 148
  • 37. Key Points to Remember - Reduce risk by thinking through how the termination will be handled. - Understand the standards for, and limitations on, finality. - Remove severance agreement provisions that tend to do more harm than good.
  • 38. Contact Information James (Jay) F. Glunt 412 394 3339 jay.glunt@ogletreedeakins.com Damon P. Hart 617 994 5722 damon.hart@ogletreedeakins.com Sponsored By: Affordable outplacement 2.0 services nationwide. LEARN MORE ONLINE at careerminds.com

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