All NJ severance agreements contain waivers of any claims that an employee may bring against the company. A waiver is the main purpose for the employer to provide the severance agreement so it can guarantee that an employee cannot later file an expensive lawsuit against the company.
However, not all severance waivers are valid. In order for the waiver to be valid it must be a knowing and voluntary waiver. Whether a waiver is knowing or voluntary will depend on the statute that is being waived or potential claim. For example, a waiver of any rights under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and Conscientious Employee Protection Act must be express and the waiver must specifically mention these statutes in order to be waived. The company cannot force you to sign the release. A company should also allow you to bring the severance agreement back home so that you can review it and consider the agreement. This would allow the company to later enforce the waiver based on your time to consider the agreement. Most severance agreements also contain a section instructing you to meet with an attorney to discuss the agreement before signing. This would also protect the company.
An employee who signs a NJ severance agreement can try and file a lawsuit in court and argue that the waiver was not done knowingly and voluntarily. This will be a judgment call made by the Judge and may involve an evidentiary hearing. An employee should not sign a NJ severance agreement with the belief that the waiver provision can later be challenged. It is a high hurdle to demonstrate that the waiver was not done knowingly or voluntarily.
For more information or for additional assistance please contact a NJ severance lawyer at Castronovo & McKinney at 973-920-7888.