Legal Question in Employment Law in District of Columbia

I was singled out to be laid off from my job as a Corporate Relations Manager - only I was laid off. Coworkers in my group were allowed to retain their jobs and get other duties while I was told mine were obsolete. Everyone is white and female - I am black and male. I have 14 days to accept 4 weeks of severance pay and a lump sum COBRA payment. I think it is racial discrimination but I have no clear evidence. I was told in January that I would be transferred to another department which was acquiring the corporate relations function. Then, one month later I was told that I had 6 weeks left on my job because something changed - no one will tell me what - and there was no job for me at the other department or in my current dept. My supervisor is still doing the same work we did after I was thrown out so the explanation that my job tasks are obsolete is proven to be a lie. On my last day of my job, a white male temp that worked with me got a permanent job in same department that refused my transfer. I don't know if I have a case. If I pursue it, I have to refuse the severance agreement because it has a no liability clause that protects my employer (whose name is four initials) from legal action. I simply can't afford to pay thousands to retain a lawyer for months with the possibility of losing the case (if there is one) and ending up with nothing but legal bills. Should I just take the severance (about $4,000 in pay and whatever lump sum COBRA payment would be) and concentrate on finding a new job? Or risk everything by refusing the severance and letting the Office of Human Rights and EEOC investigate? I have been told by friends at work who have been there several years and seen this kind of thing before that this big, high-profile, Washington, DC-based non-profit organization that claims to represent older Americans and sells insurance has paid settlements to avoid the bad publicity that such a case of unfairness and discrimination in the workplace something they have fought against for years.

Asked on 4/07/13, 1:26 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Torrance Colvin The Colvin Law Firm

First, sorry to hear about your misfortune. As for you main question, that is difficult and only something that you can answer.

Employment cases are frequently difficult, expensive, and time consuming. That being said, if you believe that you were truly discriminated against based on your race it is probably worth speaking with an attorney to discuss your specific case, as there are numerous questions not answered in your brief summary. As for the Office of Human Rights and EEOC, since the AARP is based in DC, you are able to take advantage of the D.C. Human Rights statute, which in many ways is more preferable than actually dealing with the federal EEOC statute. There are times when the investigation is useful, but frequently it is just a six month delay between the adverse employment activity and filing suit.

As for COBRA, regardless whether you take the severance, your employer is obligated to provide COBRA to you for one year. The severance and COBRA are mutually exclusive.

I'd welcome discussing this matter with you further. I have nearly 15 years of employment experience, including numerous years at the NAACP. Feel free to give me a call to discuss.

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Answered on 4/07/13, 5:21 pm

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