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Ineffective OWBPA Waiver in a RIF: Peterson v. Seagate

Posted in Employment Contracts and Agreements

Nineteen former employees who signed releases after being terminated in a RIF and who did not file EEOC charges may proceed in joining the class bringing ADA claims against their former employer. The plaintiffs alleged the waivers were invalid under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (“OWBPA”) because they misrepresented the number of employees selected for termination, failed to accurately list those selected for termination, were not written in a manner reasonably calculated to be understood by the average employee, and did not disclose the criterion used to select employees for termination. The plaintiffs also claimed they were not given the requisite 45 days to decide whether to sign. If the plaintiffs’ allegations were true, the waivers would be invalid; therefore the court denied the employer’s motion to dismiss based on valid waivers. The fact that nineteen employees did not file claims with the EEOC also was not a bar. Those employees may properly “piggyback” on the timely filed charges of two other plaintiffs who alleged classwide discrimination. Such charges gave sufficient notice to the employer of the classwide discrimination claims alleged in the complaint.