3rd Circuit Rejects AT&T’s Appeal of Judgment Striking Down Its Release Agreement as Being in Violation of US Age Discrimination Law
On January 11, 2019, Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice ruled that the release agreement provided to and signed by a former AT&T employee, Alison Ray, violated federal age discrimination law and was therefore invalid and unenforceable as to her claim under the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (“ADEA”).
According to Judge Rice, AT&T’s release agreement failed to comply with the strict information requirements of the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (“OWBPA”), which was passed to ensure that workers over age 40 are given adequate information when deciding whether to sign a release of claims. In his opinion, Judge Rice confirmed: “Congress intended the OWBPA’s disclosure requirements to arm employees with enough information to make an informed decision whether to release any potential ADEA claims against an employer…. AT&T’s disclosure did not serve that goal.”
Following Judge Rice’s ruling in January 2019, AT&T filed a Motion for Reconsideration and a Motion for Certification of Interlocutory Appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Judge Rice denied AT&T’s Motion for Reconsideration, but granted its Motion seeking review of his decision in the appellate court.
On May 14, 2019, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected AT&T’s Petition to Appeal the judgment that its release agreement was invalid and unenforceable. As a result, Ms. Ray may proceed with her age discrimination claim even though she signed a release agreement and received severance at the time of her termination of employment from AT&T.
The Third Circuit’s decision allowing this judgment, which invalidated AT&T’s release agreement, to stand is an important step towards holding AT&T accountable for its actions. As a result of this ruling, older workers who signed similar release agreements upon their terminations from AT&T may still have federal age discrimination claims, despite AT&T’s misleading statements in those releases that such claims are waived.
According to Stephen G. Console, Esquire, of Console Mattiacci Law, LLC in Philadelphia, the law firm which represents Ms. Ray: “Former AT&T employees who signed the invalid and unenforceable release agreements have a right to know that they may still have age discrimination claims against AT&T. Older workers who signed such releases should seek the advice of employment counsel as soon as possible.”
Alison Ray is represented by Stephen G. Console, Susan M. Saint-Antoine, Brian C. Farrell, Daniel S. Orlow, and Julie A. Uebler of Console Mattiacci Law, LLC.
AT&T is represented by Kenneth W. Gage and Alex J. Maturi of Paul Hastings.
About Console Mattiacci Law, LLC
Console Mattiacci Law, LLC is an employment rights law firm with offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Moorestown, New Jersey, and New York City, New York. Since its inception in 1990, the firm has focused its practice on the representation of current, former, and potential employees concerning work-related matters. The lawyers at Console Mattiacci Law, LLC counsel whistleblower-employees who have been retaliated against and individuals who have been victimized by illegal employment discrimination and retaliation, including sex, race, religion, disability and age discrimination and sexual harassment at work. They also represent employees concerning medical leaves, disability benefits, wage and hour claims, employment contracts, severance agreements, stock option plans, and class action lawsuits.