Unenforceable Employment-Contract Provisions and Discrimination Claims

Unenforceable Employment-Contract Provisions and Discrimination Claims

Under Washington State laws, is an employment-contract provision unenforceable when it requires an employee to waive their right to publicly pursue a Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) cause of action? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


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WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION (WLAD) - RCW 49.60

Under the WLAD, it is an unfair practice, with very few exceptions, for an employer to refuse to hire any person, to discharge or bar any person from employment, or to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of age (40+); sex (including pregnancy); marital status; sexual orientation (including gender identity); race; color; creed; national origin; citizenship or immigration status; honorably discharged veteran or military status; HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C status; the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability; the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and state employee or health care whistleblower status.

It is also an unfair practice for an employer to retaliate against an employee because the employee complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

REVISED CODE OF WASHINGTON - RCW 49.44.085

Some employers in Washington offer employment contracts or agreements that contain provisions requiring employees to waive their right to publicly pursue causes of action under WLAD (RCW 49.60) or federal antidiscrimination laws. However, such provisions are unenforceable.

The relevant law is found under RCW 49.44.085, as follows:

Provision requiring an employee to waive right to publicly pursue cause of action is unenforceable.

A provision of an employment contract or agreement is against public policy and is void and unenforceable if it requires an employee to waive the employee's right to publicly pursue a cause of action arising under chapter 49.60 RCW or federal antidiscrimination laws or to publicly file a complaint with the appropriate state or federal agencies, or if it requires an employee to resolve claims of discrimination in a dispute resolution process that is confidential.

Id. (hyperlinks and emphasis added). 

CONCLUSION

Thus, under Washington State laws (RCW 49.44.085) an employment-contract provision is against public policy and is invalid and unenforceable when it requires an employee to give up their right to publicly pursue a Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), RCW 49.60, cause of action. See RCW 49.44.085.

In addition, such a provision is also against public policy and both invalid and unenforceable if it obligates an employee to conclude their discrimination claim(s) through a confidential dispute resolution process. Id.

LEARN MORE

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group; please see our DISCLAIMER.

–gw

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