Board Rules that Employers May Not Offer Severance Agreements Requiring Employees to Broadly Waive Labor Law Rights
Today, the Board issued a decision in McLaren Macomb, returning to longstanding precedent holding that employers may not offer employees severance agreements that require employees to broadly waive their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The decision involved severance agreements offered to furloughed employees that prohibited them from making statements that could disparage the employer and from disclosing the terms of the agreement itself.
The decision reverses the previous Board’s decisions in Baylor University Medical Center and IGT d/b/a International Game Technology, issued in 2020, which abandoned prior precedent in finding that offering similar severance agreements to employees was not unlawful, by itself.
Today’s decision, in contrast, explains that simply offering employees a severance agreement that requires them to broadly give up their rights under Section 7 of the Act violates Section 8(a)(1) of the Act. The Board observed that the employer’s offer is itself an attempt to deter employees from exercising their statutory rights, at a time when employees may feel they must give up their rights in order to get the benefits provided in the agreement.
“It’s long been understood by the Board and the courts that employers cannot ask individual employees to choose between receiving benefits and exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Today’s decision upholds this important principle and restores longstanding precedent,” said Chairman Lauren McFerran.
Members Wilcox and Prouty joined Chairman McFerran in issuing the decision. Member Kaplan dissented.
Established in 1935, the National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency that protects employees from unfair labor practices and protects the right of private sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve wages, benefits and working conditions. The NLRB conducts hundreds of workplace elections and investigates thousands of unfair labor practice charges each year.