Minneapolis Public Schools will stop requiring employees to sign severance agreements that include a pledge never to sue the school district for employment discrimination, according to an agreement reached by federal officials and school administrators.
In an agreement signed Wednesday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the third-largest school district in the state agreed that school officials will remove the language that was included in separation pacts signed by 50 employees over the past 2½ years.
In signing the agreement, the district made no acknowledgment of wrongdoing, said Julie Schmid, acting director of the EEOC’s Minneapolis area office.
The full conciliation agreement will remain undisclosed unless the district wishes to release it publicly, Schmid added.
In an e-mail, Amy Moore, general counsel for the district, said, “In 2015, the district was alerted by the EEOC about concerns with the language in our severance agreements. We immediately and voluntarily took steps to update our agreements, and continued to work with the EEOC to reach a final resolution. Today’s announcement reflects our efforts to cooperatively resolve the concerns.”
The EEOC said that requiring an employee to relinquish the right to file a discrimination charge violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.
The severance language came to the attention of federal officials after a discrimination claim was filed against the district, Schmid said.
“Employers should know that the EEOC will not [support] such language restricting an employee’s right to file a charge of discrimination, a right which was established by federal anti-discrimination law over 50 years ago,” Schmid said.
The district also agreed to notify all former employees who signed such a pact that they now have the right to file a charge of discrimination without losing severance benefits or violating the agreement.