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Employees Are Growing Bolder “On the Way Out”

It’s not easy being a responsible company these days.

Especially with new human resources issues now bubbling to a froth in the workplace.

The issue apparently attracting the most new attention — and, increasingly, federal review — is the “non-disparagement” agreement many employees sign when laid off. A bi-partisan Senate review is underway examining these “routine” separation contracts with employees who receive severance for silence. Some of these employees, especially aggrieved because they are being replaced by foreigners on temporary H-1B work visas, are either not signing the agreements or abrogating them, therefore forfeiting sometimes sizable payouts.

As reported in The New York Times: “American workers who lost jobs to global outsourcing companies have been largely silent. Until recently. Now some workers who were displaced are starting to speak out, despite severance agreements prohibiting them from criticizing their former employers.”

On a related front, former employees (and some unhappy consumers) are confronting established law requiring that many disputes with companies be settled by arbitration, therefore restricting satisfaction via class action lawsuits.

Companies now face a potentially long trail of court cases, perhaps back to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last month, the Employment Class Action Blog reported that “the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit shook up the arbitral landscape and created a remarkable circuit split regarding the enforceability of arbitration agreements with class action waivers in the employment sector.”

Along with other longstanding workplace issues such as equal opportunity for a diverse workforce, safety in global supply chains and trade/technology impacts, corporate human resource managers and their bosses have quite a full plate before them. 

More than ever, blending traditional and new demands on companies now requires a combination of special talents, commitments — and legal counsel.