It is Illegal to Require Employees to Waive their Federal Employment Rights

After an investigation by the EEOC, it was discovered that the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) was implementing a policy that required employees to waive their rights under federal anti-discrimination statutes as a condition of employment. Those employees who refused to do so would be denied resolution of employment grievances. This policy affects more than 13,000 employees, as IDHS is one of the largest employers in the State of Illinois.

Employer policies requiring a waiver of rights is illegal

An employer’s requirement that employees waive their rights under various employment discrimination statutes is illegal. This type of conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA),

IDHS resolves the claims by revising their illegal policies

According to the three-year agreement the IDHS entered into with the EEOC, the employer will be required to offer annual training to all of its Labor Relations and Human Resources Managers on the legal issues including discrimination and harassment under Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, the EPA, and GINA. IDHS has also agreed to remove language from its Grievance Resolution Agreements suggesting that employees are prohibited from filing charges of discrimination with EEOC. IDHS will provide periodic reporting to EEOC on all employees who enter into grievance resolutions that resolve allegations of discrimination covered by Title VII, the EPA, the ADA, the ADEA, and GINA.

Other employers have similar policies

The IDHS is not the only large employer facing these issues. The EEOC has also announced a conciliation agreement with the Minneapolis Public Schools, which is the third largest school district in the state of Minnesota. The school district agreed to delete from its severance agreements, language that required departing employees to waive their right to pursue a discrimination charge arising out of his or her employment by the school district. Conditioning an employee’s receipt of severance benefits on a waiver of rights under federal anti-discrimination statutes is illegal.

Potential rights that employees are waiving by signing these agreements

Absent a written employment contract, each employee is guaranteed a number of legal rights and protections. Some of these rights are implied, such as the right to reasonable notice of termination, the right to refuse adverse changes to compensation or position, and the right to compete with a former employer. Courts have established these implied rights over time, through case law, in order to encourage fairness.

There are also numerous explicit legal rights that have been enacted by federal lawmakers which, for example, prohibit discrimination or harassment based on gender,

race, age, disability, or pregnancy. There are also laws that protect whistleblowers and protect against overtime and other pay violations.

You have the right to negotiate with your employer

Remember that employees have the right to negotiate the contract in order to place themselves on more equal footing with their employer. Yet, most employees are not courageous enough to do so. The best advice is to ask an experienced employment attorney in your area to review the contract and challenge any terms that may be questionable.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.

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