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LawTalk
LawTalk, Attorney
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 27889
Experience:  I have 30 years of experience in the practice of law, including employment law and discrimination law.
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I was presented with a severance release form and I was ask

Customer Question

I was presented with a severance release form and I was ask to sign it by my employer. I wondering if there is a grace period in California for me to rescind the contract as I feel I was wrongfully terminated due to my state pregnancy. THe release form would potentially release them from being liable for this wrongful termination in the future
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.
Good morning,

I'm Doug, and I'm very sorry to hear of your situation.

1. Please tell me you have not already signed the agreement and returned it to your employer. Did you? Is so, when?

2. Are you over the age of 40 and will you also waive your right to sue for age discrimination?

Doug
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I just signed the agreement yesterday, under duress. I was not given anytime to look it over or think about it. I was in total shock when I signed the document. Now my question is do I have any grace period when I can rescind my signature, and request to have more time to think about the agreement! I am not over 40.
Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.
Good morning Elaine,

Thanks for the additional information.

As you are not over 40, and there was no waiver of age discrimination, there is no California, or federal, law which grants you a right of rescission after you have already signed the agreement and returned it to your employer. Only a release of age discrimination comes with a 45 day preview period and a 7 day right of rescission---and that is based on federal requirements, not CA state law.

As for your claim of duress---the law holds that the sort of duress which is capable of acting as a ground to rescind a contract must be duress of a nature that your physical safety, or the safely of a loved one, was in jeopardy. Simply being in a highly stressed state of mind will not constitute legal duress---I'm sorry.

You mat certainly ask your employer to allow you to rescind the agreement and if they agree to do so and allow you additional time to consider it---that is fine.

I have a significant amount of experience in CA litigating discrimination claims against employers. I want to try and help you here---and you seem to want to rescind because you feel that your pregnancy has something to do with your termination. If there is no possible DFEH/EEOC claim for sex discrimination based on your pregnancy, then having already signed the severance agreement may not really be an issue at all.

Can you tell me why you feel that you have been discriminated against?

Doug
LawTalk, Attorney
Satisfied Customers: 27889
Experience: I have 30 years of experience in the practice of law, including employment law and discrimination law.
LawTalk and other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I was told that my termination was not due to any cause, and the only reason that I was being terminated was because my collegue from New York had requested to be transferred here to the Bay Area. In order to accommodate him, they had to give him my job. And the suspicious part is that I recently spent some time with that New York collegue of mine, and I disclosed my pregnancy to him because I was told by someone that his wife was also pregnant. I feel that he has deceived me and used what I told him to get his way. But of course I have no proof of that. This all happened within 3 weeks. I'm also wondering if I am able to sue for discrimination since I had signed an arbitrary agreement at the beginning of my employment. The arbitusury agreement states that I agree to go through arbitrary hearings only for civil cases such as sex discrimination.
Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.
Thanks Elaine, for the additional facts.

Even if the colleague in NY used his knowledge of your pregnancy to press your employer for your job---that does not tend to prove that the employer somehow discriminated against you based on your pregnancy. If you can show how his knowledge of your pregnancy was used---and that the employer based on your pregnancy decided to get rid of you---only then would you have a viable claim for discrimination. While the circumstances are suspicious, that alone is not enough.

Take a look at your agreement. While many agreements hold that you agree not to pursue a claim against the company for discrimination---they don't take away your legal right to file a formal DFEH/EEOC complaint---and you are probably free to file a complaint---you simply won't be able to sue the employer.

The arbitration agreement you may have signed on your hire---agreeing to arbitrate any claims against the employer that you might have---is a common agreement, and in and of itself is not illegal. The arbitration agreement likely speaks to claims of all kinds---and so that would include discrimination claims. As the severance agreement probably prohibits not only lawsuits but claims by you---that would eliminate your ability to make an arbitration claim for discrimination as well.

Now, if you want to file a formal complaint of discrimination with either the EEOC or the DFEH, you may do so.

To do this you must first make an appointment with the Department to be interviewed, either over the phone or at a local DFEH office. You may call the DFEH at 800-884-1684, or apply on line by using the Department’s "Online Appointment System." The system will guide you through questions to determine whether an appointment is right for you.

Alternatively, you may file a complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). If your company has 15 or more employees (the DFEH only requires that there be 5 or more employees), they are prohibited from discriminating against you. To file a complaint with the EEOC, contact the nearest Equal Employment Opportunity Commission field office. To be automatically connected with the nearest office, call (800) 669-4000. EEOC website: www.eeoc.gov

I wish you the best in your future, Elaine.

Doug

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