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By Michael Lopez
BY ROBIN PAGGI Contributing columnist
If you give departing employees any kind of severance or settlement, it's a good idea to have them sign a confidentiality agreement on their way out the door.
Such agreements prevent former employees from discussing the amount of the severance or settlement because such discussions might cause other ousted employees to be upset if they did not receive the same kind of money.
These agreements also protect the employer in case the employee blabs.
Such was the case with Patrick Snay, who sued Gulliver Preparatory School in Miami for not renewing his contract. According to an article on www.lexology.com, Snay alleged age discrimination and retaliation and the case was resolved with him receiving a monetary settlement.
Snay signed a confidentiality agreement that prohibited him from discussing the case or settlement with anyone other than his attorneys or spouse. Despite the agreement, Snay also told his college-age daughter, Dana, about the settlement "allegedly because she had suffered psychological scars from the incident and needed to be told something about its resolution," according to the article. Unfortunately for Snay, Dana posted the news on Facebook, saying, "Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer...."
Dana is probably not going to Europe now because at least one of her 1,200 Facebook friends told the school's lawyers about the post and they have now refused to pay the settlement. A Florida appeals court sided with the school, saying, "His daughter did precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent, advertising to the Gulliver community that Snay had been successful in his age discrimination and retaliation case against the school."
Employers trying to keep severance or settlement information confidential would be wise to let outgoing employees know they cannot talk about it in the form of a signed agreement.
And, employees who want to keep their money should also keep the information to themselves,
-- Robin Paggi is the training coordinator at Worklogic HR Legal Solutions. Reach her at email@example.com. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.