The balancing of employer and employee rights can be a tricky one to maintain.
Voluntary waivers by employees can sometimes help the balancing. And, other times the situations can become even messier.
A lot depends on what is meant by “voluntary.”
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) has issued a wide range of information about employee rights, some of which can help to guide employers. Although a contract can be a good guideline, the EEOC says that most courts look beyond contract language and consider the following when trying to determine if an employee knowingly and voluntarily waived discrimination claims:
* Whether the contract was written in a manner that was clear and specific enough for the employee to understand based on his education and business experience;
* Whether it was induced by fraud, duress, undue influence, or other improper conduct by the employer;
* Whether the employee had enough time to read and think about the advantages and disadvantages of the agreement before signing it;
* Whether the employee consulted with an attorney or was encouraged or discouraged by the employer from doing so;
* Whether the employee had any input in negotiating the terms of the agreement; and,
* Whether the employer offered the employee consideration (e.g., severance pay, additional benefits) that exceeded what the employee already was entitled to by law or contract and the employee accepted the offered consideration.