Companies Cannot Force Workers To Sign Agreements Denying Them Civil Rights Says Timothy Coffey, Chicago Employment Attorney

Law Firm Newswire



Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) January 6, 2014 – BASF Corporation must pay $500,000 to settle a retaliation lawsuit.

A large Illinois corporation found itself settling a lawsuit filed against it for retaliation. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) slapped BASF Corporation, who bought out Cognis Corporation, with the suit alleging that Cognis retaliated against a worker at its Kankakee facility. The retaliation was allegedly in direct violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964).

According to the statement of claim, Cognis mandated that one of its long-time workers, as a condition of his continued employment, must sign a last-chance agreement that meant he would lose his job if he did not sign it. However, the wording of the agreement banned the worker from filing a discrimination lawsuit with the EEOC, currently or in the future for unnamed events. The employee said he would not sign the agreement. Five other workers at the same facility had also apparently been forced into signing the illegal last-chance document.

Cognis fired him. He sought the assistance of the EEOC, who in turn filed EEOC v. Cognis Corp., 10-CV-2182, C.D. Ill, but only after attempting a conciliation process. “At trial, the judge ruled that the man’s firing was clearly unlawful retaliation in direct violation of Title VII and moved to the damage phase of the trial,” said Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace.

This case took a long time to conclude, eventually winding up being resolved with a consent decree in January of 2013. The decree offered financial compensation for all victims involved in this case and mandated that BASF report any and all further retaliation complaints at their facility for two years. They also had to agree to educate employees about what constituted illegal and prohibited retaliation and inform them they had the right to oppose any such demand without losing their jobs.

“If you’re facing a similar situation in your workplace, do not sign or agree to anything until you have spoken to a competent and knowledgeable employment lawyer. Find out what your rights are. They exist to protect you,” added Coffey.

Learn more at THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C. 351 W. Hubbard Street, Suite 602 Chicago, IL 60654 Call: 312.627.9700
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