U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Making an Employment Decision?

Manager Responsibilities - Waivers of Discrimination Complaints

You may ask employees who are laid off or subjected to a reduction in force to formally agree not to file a discrimination complaint against your business (in other words, to "waive," or release, their right to sue). Special rules apply to these types of agreements:

  • The agreement must provide the employee with something of value that they are not already entitled to in exchange for their promise not to sue.
    • For example, the agreement may offer the employee a specified amount of money (separate from any salary or other benefits to which the employee is already entitled) in exchange for her agreement not to sue.
  • The agreement may waive the employee's individual right to file a lawsuit or obtain relief (such as money) based on past experiences.
    • The agreement may not require the employee to waive any right to sue that might arise after she signs the agreement. For example, if a manager sexually harasses an employee a week after she signs the agreement, a business may not defend itself by claiming that the agreement prevents the employee from filing a lawsuit.
  • The employee must "knowingly and voluntarily" agree not to file a discrimination complaint. Certain, very specific rules apply, depending on the type(s) of lawsuits that the employee agrees not to file.
    • One set of rules applies to agreements not to file race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, genetic information and pay discrimination complaints.
    • A different set of rules applies to agreements not to file age discrimination complaints.
  • The agreement may not restrict the employee from filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.
  • The agreement may not limit the employee's right to testify, assist or participate in an EEOC investigation, hearing or proceeding.
  • The agreement must comply with applicable state and federal laws.

Waiver rules can be complicated. You may want to consult a lawyer or contact the EEOC for assistance.

See also:

I need to lay off employees.

Avoiding Discrimination in Layoffs or Reductions in Force (RIF)