Many employers offer departing employees money or benefits in exchange for a release or “waiver,” of liability for all claims connected with the employment relationship, including discrimination claims under the civil rights laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Employers want to keep from getting sued be departing employees, so these waivers can be very important to them, even if they make it sound like these are "just a few minor papers you need to sign" to close out your job and get a check.
While it is common for senior-level executives to negotiate severance provisions when initially hired, other employees typically are offered severance agreements and asked to sign a waiver at the time of termination.
When presented with a severance agreement, many employees wonder: Is this legal? Should I sign it?
The EEOC has posted some guidance on this issue to help workers recognize some of their rights and potential pitfalls that can arise from signing severance agreements without enough information.
This guidance is only general information, and if your company offers you a severance agreement, you would be well advised to seek legal counsel for your particular situation.
More information about severance agreements is also available on a previous Hot Button post, Severance Agreements: What Workers Should Know.
Source: See the EEOC's Guidance on Understanding Waivers of Discrimination in Employee Severance Agreements.