Magazine article Workforce Management

Release Signed by Fired Employee Ruled Invalid

Magazine article Workforce Management

Release Signed by Fired Employee Ruled Invalid

Article excerpt

WHEN IBM TERMINATED 28-year employee Dale Thomforde, he was asked to sign a "General Release and Covenant Not to Sue" in exchange for severance benefits. Although the form was drafted as a general release of all claims, Thomforde noticed some specific language regarding the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. He asked his supervisor if that language would allow him to sue IBM if the case was limited to the ADEA. After consulting the legal department, the supervisor told Thomforde that the company's attorney was "not comfortable providing an interpretation for you and suggested you consult with your own attorney."

Thomforde signed the release, but then sued IBM in district court for age discrimination under the ADEA. As part of the ADEA, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act requires waivers of ADEA rights to be "written in a manner calculated to be understood by such individual, or by the average individual eligible to participate."

Upon appeal, the U. …

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