In an interesting case from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, the court found that settlement of a workers’ compensation claim did not waive claims on the part of the employee for violations under FMLA or under Pennsylvania common law.
In the case of Zuber v. Boscov’s, No 16-3217 (3d Cir., Sept. 11, 2017) an employee was hurt at work and filed a workers’ compensation claim.
The employee was subsequently let go and shortly thereafter settled the workers’ compensation case with the employer by signing a settlement agreement that was approved by the workers’ compensation judge. A few months later, the former employee filed suit in federal court claiming violations of the FMLA, retaliation for asserting FMLA rights, and retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim by the employer.
The employer sought to have the case dismissed upon the basis of the settlement agreement from the workers’ compensation claim, arguing that the agreement included a waiver of all possible claims related to the injury, which the employer contended would also include the claims later asserted under the FMLA and state law. The employee argued that the language of the agreement limited itself to only the injury and workers’ compensation claim.
The lower court agreed with the employer, but the Third Circuit reversed that decision and found that the waiver was more limited.
The Court reviewed the language of the release and, while suggesting that it could have included the claims later asserted by the employee in federal court if that’s what the parties wanted to do, the language of the agreement was far more limited and only related to the workers’ compensation claims. As a result, the employee will be permitted to pursue the other claims in federal court.
The case presents a clear lesson for lawyers and employers working to resolve cases – know what possible claims may be at issue, know what claims the parties are willing to settle under the settlement agreement, and be as specific as possible in the settlement to make sure the claim you think is being settled actually is. We note that this decision is consistent with our interpretation of the law, and encourage those with related questions to consult with their legal counsel or one of the Employment Attorneys at KingSpry.
The Eastern Pennsylvania Employment Log (EPELog) is a publication of the KingSpry Employment Law Practice Group. Jeffrey T. Tucker, Esquire, is our editor-in-chief. EPELog is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.