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Eleventh Circuit Update: Severance Agreements and FMLA

In Paylor v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., (11th Cir. April 8, 2014) the Court affirmed the district court’s decision that the plaintiff’s knowing and voluntary execution of a severance agreement settled claims based on past employer conduct. While the employee claimed she only signed the agreement because her stress level was unmanageable, because she was dealing with an ill mother, and pressure at work – the district court looked at the totality of circumstances and determined the release was knowing and voluntary. As such, the employer was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and the agreement was valid.

At issue was a question regarding waiver of an employee’s prospective Family and Medical Leave Act rights. The Court concluded that the FMLA prohibition of prospective waiver only bars employee waiver of FMLA rights for actions that have not yet happened. In Paylor, the action the employee took issue with happened before execution of the Severance Agreement. Therefore, prospective waiver was not at issue and the district court decision was affirmed.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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