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Employment Law/Retaliation / False reports / Collusion


QUESTION: I was an employee at a company for over 5 years.  To keep it short, I filed a harassment and then retaliation charges with my employer.  Over their month-long investigation, they concluded there was no harassment - end of story.  The harassment continued to the point I could not tolerate the working conditions.  (The company had offered me (during its investigation) a "severance")  Due to the continued harassment I felt it necessary to leave the company and signed their severance agreement (not good, I know).  I now realize that the company has experts in the area of labor and employment (for employers)and recently even published an article on the topic.  There may be ONE way that I can think of to get around the agreement - if one of the people doing the harassing was an independent contractor ... I need help.  I have now applied for over 200 jobs - and have not had a single offer.  This is very disturbing, as my resume is very good, and I have excellent references.    **911**   Any suggestions????

Thank you in advance.

ANSWER: Sharon - What is is that you want suggestions about?  You mention a number of issues, and I'm not sure what you want me to address.  Please write back and give me more guidance about your question.  Thanks.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Is there a way for me to set aside the agreement?  I have done some research on my own and based on some of the case law I have read, it seems as though the agreement may not be enforceable based on the criteria.

See Coventry v. U.S. Steel Corp., 856 F.2d 514, 524 (3d Cir. 1988) (finding that circumstances placing the employee in a "take it or leave if" setting with no negotiation over the terms of the release agreement "support[s] a finding that his decision was not knowingly and willfully made").

Id. at 524-25 (finding that an employee who signed a release that did not mention waiver of ADEA claims and who did not have an attorney did not make "a volitional choice between real options, and that ... the absence of counsel resulted in a decision the legal significance of which he did not understand completely").

In my case, I was presented a take it or leave it, did not have an attorney, and the harassment and retaliation continued after the company "determined" there was none (which I reported several times to administration).  The company also has a strict no harassment policy, which it violated.

Please let me know if I can provide additional information.  


Sharon - Without a lot more information and a copy of the agreement, I cannot give you an answer.  You should seek advice from an employment attorney in California, who will take the time to review your situation and give you his or her recommendations.  Your local Bar Association can recommend an employment attorney.  Most initial consultations are without cost, or have a low (under $100) initial consultation fee.

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Margaret M. deMarteleire


I can answer most questions about employment law, federal or state. I am an attorney, not an HR professional, so questions about HR careers, coursework, prospects, etc. are not within my scope.


Attorney for 20 years, currently working exclusively with employment law - FLSA, FMLA, federal contracts, pay, etc.

Temple University School of Liberal Arts, BA, Rhetoric & Communication, 1982 Temple University School of Law, JD, 1990 Certificate in HR, Cornell University ILR School, 2006

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