In every settlement of a discrimination claim, the employer always require a confidentiality clause. In this clause, the employee agrees to reveal the terms of the settlement only to a select few persons, such as a spouse and an accountant. The rationale offered by the employer is that otherwise, they will face numerous other lawsuits seeking the "easy pickin’s" of a discrimination lawsuit. Well, whatever might happen, most of my clients have no interest in disclosing anything. So, they usually agree to such clauses.
But, in one recent age discrimination case, the result was not so happy. Patrick Snay, former headmaster at Gulliver Preparatory School in Miami was forced out. He sued for age discrimination and settled for $80,000. The settlement included a confidentiality clause. Mr. Snay and his wife told their daughter, Dana. Dana was now attending Boston College, but she had many friends from her days at Gulliver. She posted the good news on Facebook, "Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver." "Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT." Dana had 1200 FB friends. See Yahoo news report.
Ok. That is a slight violation of the confidentiality clause. Gulliver students saw the post. The post made its way to Gulliver administrators who then told their lawyers. The employer moved to declare the settlement void and the court agreed.
First, it is doubtful the Snays were truly planning a European vacation. If Mr. Snay was like most of my clients, he was unemployed for a year or two before finding work. Most of that settlement would pay down credit card bills and pay off loans from friends and family.
Second, sure this was unfortunate for Patrick Snay. But, his lawsuit is now alive, again – assuming he has no statute of limitations issues. He may eventually find more money from a jury. Mr. Snay says he had to tell his daughter something. She suffered psychological scars when he was forced out.
Many plaintiffs do not read the entire settlement agreement. It is a legal document, stocked with plenty of legalese that goes on for ten, fifteen pages or more. It is not light reading. If Mr. Snay did not caution his daughter with the confidential nature of the settlement terms, then he should have.
But, now he has his lawsuit back. And, I will wager that there will not be a rash of lawsuits against Gulliver Prep School seeking those "easy" settlements for age discrimination.