Sometimes, a worker’s unfortunate and unsuccessful outcome in his legal action can offer some clear lessons for those who come after. For example, a pizza delivery driver recently lost the opportunity to pursue a discrimination case in civil court because he signed an extremely broad release document as part of the settlement of his workers’ compensation claims. The outcome is a reminder to make sure that you understand exactly what you are signing before you ever put pen to paper on a legal document. As part of that process of considering settlement, if you think you have suffered disability discrimination, you should talk to a knowledgeable California employment attorney upon whom you can confidently rely.
The employee in the case, A.E., was a delivery driver for a major national pizza chain. A.E., who was in his 60s, eventually grew frustrated with his supervisor reducing his hours and stealing his tips. As a result, he filed an age discrimination lawsuit under the FEHA against his employer and his supervisor.
The driver also had suffered physical and psychological injuries while he was at at work. At the same time that the driver’s discrimination case was underway, A.E. also had several claims for workers’ compensation proceeding. The driver and his employer eventually decided to settle the four workers’ compensation claims that were pending. The driver agreed to accept two payments each, the sum total of which was just slightly less than $25,000. In exchange, the driver agreed to release his claims against the employer.
All of that probably sounds fairly routine. It is what happened next that proved to be “game-changing” for the driver’s discrimination case. The Compromise & Release forms that A.E. signed stated that the settlement also included “all claims arising under any state or federal law regulation, including the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, federal and state wage and hour laws, federal and state False Claims Acts, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the California Family Rights Act, the California Labor Code, and any and all other federal, state or local laws or regulations relating to wage and hour issues, breach of contract, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, public policy, wrongful discharge, disability, compensation” and so forth. In other words, it was an extremely broad release that said that the driver was relinquishing his right to pursue most any legal action against his employer, including his age discrimination claim.
A.E., who did not speak English, tried to argue that the language barrier meant that he did not freely and voluntarily sign the release. He asserted that he thought that he was only settling his workers’ compensation claim. The argument did not succeed. The law allows parties wide latitude regarding the terms to which they may commit themselves as part of the settlement of a legal action. An employer and employee are entirely free to agree to resolve non-workers’ compensation claims as part of a workers’ compensation case settlement. The language of this release was clear regarding what rights were being forfeited, so the employer was entitled to have it enforced.
If you have experienced discrimination based upon your age, you may have a viable legal action that would allow you to recover damages. The Oakland employment attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch have been working hard for many years to protect the right of workers from illegal discrimination. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-2575 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Overly Broad Release Agreement Costs California Driver in Pedestrian Accident Case, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, Aug. 31, 2016
How a Waiver Agreement Can Cost You in Your California Auto Accident Injury Suit, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, March 31, 2016