Agreement upon reduction in force including language “of any and all claims” includes subsequently discovered discrimination claim: HUMANA, INC. V. BLOSE (SC 3/20/2008)

TORTS: Agreement upon reduction in force including language "of any and all claims" includes subsequently discovered discrimination claim
DATE RENDERED: 3/20/2008

The Supreme Court reverses (Jefferson Cir. Ct.).

The appellee suffers from cerebral palsy and uses crutches for walking and balance. She worked for Humana from 1995 to 2001, when she was terminated due to an alleged reduction in force. She was given 12 weeks severance pay and 12 weeks continued health and dental benefits. She executed a release and agreement of "any and all claims" against Humana. In 2004, she filed an action alleging disability discrimination, violation of KRS Chapter 344 and outrageous conduct. She alleged that during her tenure at Humana she was constantly harassed, intimidated and treated outrageously, including being pushed; having her crutches kicked out from under her; and having paperwork moved so that she had to make efforts to retrieve it. She alleged she constantly complained, but her supervisor and human resources refused to take any action. She also alleged that she was not offered the opportunity to interview for other positions in the company when other employees were.

She further alleged that the release and agreement she signed was presented to her as a "confidentiality agreement" by her superviser on the day she was fired with a demand to sign it immediately unread and a denial of a copy for her records, on threat that she would not receive her last paycheck. The TC granted Humana’s motion to dismiss. On appeal, the order dismissing the action was vacated and the case remanded to allow the appellee time to conduct discovery on the issues in the motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals also asserted that a release could not waive a statutory right, as alleged in this case.

The Supreme Court holds that, if the release is valid and enforceable, it is effective to waive a plaintiff’s right to bring a claim, whether statutory or otherwise. Curtis v. Belden Electronic Wire and Cable, 760 S.W.2d 97 (Ky. App. 1988) is overruled to the extent it is in conflict with American General Life & Acc. Ins. Co. v. Hall, 74 S.W.3d 688 (Ky. 2002).

Digested by John E. Hamlet

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